Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Things I Wish People Understood About Moving On From Domestic Abuse

After leaving a domestically violent relationship over 10 years ago, I've been surprised on many occasions by some of the damaging misconceptions people have around situations such as this and today I'm taking the opportunity to clear those up.

Here are 4 Common Misconceptions that people have about Domestic Abuse.

It Only Happens In Marriages

This is the one that I find most upsetting as, in all honesty, it was one I believed myself until it happened to me.

Of course I knew that it was always a possibility but I genuinely believed that domestic violence victims were almost exclusively female, middle aged and married to their abusers.

In actual fact, I was in my early 20s when it happened to me with a boyfriend I'd only been dating for a few months. And still I felt completely unable to escape the relationship.

Domestic abuse can happen in ANY relationship - and it can happen to ANY person, no matter what their sex, age or background.

A Victim MUST Always Press Charges

One of the first things people say to me upon hearing about my experiences in my past relationship is "But why didn't you press charges?! What if he does it again?!".

This is problematic for two reasons - firstly it places blame on the victim for any future violence committed by the perpetrator. They and they alone are responsible for any future acts of violence they commit, not their previous victims.

Secondly, escaping an abusive relationship can leave people with a myriad of mental health complications as well as many other potential practical problems - be it financial insecurity, homelessness, child custody battles, etc. To expect someone to navigate these sorts of issues and still be in the right headspace to go through the process of pressing charges is unfair. 

And thirdly, it can be incredibly difficult to understand the law around domestic violence and what your rights are. It's worth seeking the advice of a lawyer who specialises in domestic violence law such as Astor Legal to ensure you understand how the law can support you.

There Are Two Sides To Every Story

I've heard this many times - people assume that domestic abuse is a "he said/she said" situation where one party may be embellishing the facts, and that results in people being reluctant to believe a victim or help them.

I reached out to a friend when I first found myself being abused, and when I was disbelieved - it floored me. And it stopped me from reaching out again for several years, resulting in many more instances of abuse during that relationship.

If someone confides in you, always believe them and seek appropriate help. Don't wade in to the situation yourself, don't confront the perpetrator - report the violence to the appropriate authorities or seek advice and guidance from a domestic violence helpline.

If Abuse Was That Bad, You Would Have Left Sooner

Leaving an abusive partner can be incredibly difficult. The victim may fear the repercussions of leaving, particularly if threats have been made or children are involved.

Abusers will often use emotional abuse to wear a person down and convince them that they are the problem, that they are the ones who should feel ashamed to have driven their abuser to act in the way they did. They are also usually experts at playing mind games, convincing the victim that nobody will believe them and that they should feel shame about the situation themselves.

There are also practical things to consider - often a victim won't have access to money and will have nowhere to go. Victims are often isolated from their families.

There are many different circumstances involved that can often keep a victim in the relationship.

Domestic violence is a surprisingly common problem, and one that needs to be discussed more in our society in order to protect people.

To find out more about Domestic Violence and how to spot the signs, visit Refuge

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