Speaking Up After Domestic Violence
by: Lianne Johnson, LPC
Domestic Violence is everywhere your eye can see. Statistically 1 in 6 women are victims of Domestic Violence. That is staggering. Look around the next time you are in the supermarket, the shopping mall, your work place, and count 6 women. It is everywhere you look, yet remains unseen by the masses.
So many women, women you know, are living in a Domestic Violence situation. Domestic Violence is insidious, it is crazy making, it is disarming to its victims, and over time it will slowly eat away at their very nature and aliveness. In fact, many women do not even realize they are being abused because of the very nature of how Domestic Violence can be experienced by its victims. All they can identify is that “isn’t right” about their relationship and they are scared.
As women break-free from an abusive relationship there is much relearning that must occur. One aspect of this relearning is Learning to Speak again. For a woman coming out of an abusive relationship, relearning to speak is like learning to reuse your leg after it brakes and has been in a cast for several weeks. Have you ever had to wear a cast? I have. After it was removed my skin was very pail and wrinkly. My leg (I broke my kneecap-ouch!) ached for a while after the cast was removed. Walking took effort. Rising from a sitting position took effort. Doing normal tasks took effort. I had to relearn how to walk, sit, rise, lay down, and run after they removed my cast. Relearning was necessary in order to use my leg in the functional ways I needed to. In the ways I used to. The relearning that took place was essential for my healing. Similarly, once a woman has broken free from her abuser she must relearn to speak – to use her voice.
Speaking up isn’t about announcing your abuse to the world or even throwing your abuser “under the bus,” as they say. It isn’t about shouting at your abuser either. Besides, shouting will only give the abuser a reason to discount whatever you are trying to communicate.
Speaking up is about learning to use your voice again. The goal of an abuser is to make you question your voice, invalidate it, ignore it, and twist it. The victim quickly learns from her abuser that when she uses her voice she is punished. So she stops speaking. Learning to speak again requires a woman first regain her self-confidence and self-worth. She must also begin to trust her internal voice again.
To those who’ve experienced Domestic Violence – You are no longer your abusers’ secret keeper. You are free. You are free to heal and to learn to love yourself once again. You are free to speak without punishment. You are free.
(For the purposes of this post the male is identified as the abuser. Please note that males can also be the victim’s of abuse.)