domestic violence

Healing from Domestic Violence: The Struggle to Find Clarity

Healing From Domestic Violence:  Struggling to Find Clarity

One universal truth of all those who have been abused is the struggle to find clarity.

Abusers love to cause confusion.  They tend to do this by distorting reality through lies and manipulation.  Years of this type of relating can cause the abused to feel crazy.  Being lied to over and over again is not only crazy-making but it begins to make untruth’s seem like truths.

Abusers also love to make themselves the victim.  Abusers will claim they are actually the ones being abused and will make their mate out to be the “bad one.”  This can prove very difficult because abusers are usually eloquent speakers who are well-liked in their community.  They are very believable people – skilled in the art of lies, deception, and spinning the truth to accommodate their agenda.  Once the abuser begins relating in these ways it causes much confusion – for both the victim and those trying to care for the couple.

In the midst of these realities how can clarity be achieved?

Stop second guessing yourself.  A person who has lived in an abusive setting for any length of time has become a second-guesser of themselves because their abuser has constantly re-written and changed reality to meet their agenda.

When you find yourself second-guessing how you remember a situation or something you said, because your abuser is telling you you’re wrong, choose to BELIEVE what you KNOW happened.  Not what your abuser is telling you.  Overtime this will get easier, but in the beginning it is very difficult.  Inviting safe and healthy people into your life (family, friend(s), pastor, counselor, etc.) to help you process through your second-guessing will prove very beneficial.

Learn from others who have been where you are.  Many times clarity is achieved by simply listening to other abuse survivors share their story and struggles.  You will begin to feel less crazy.  Trust me on this one.  You will soon be able to identify more of the scope and magnitude of your abuse. All of a sudden memories and stories you have never been able to fully understand or make sense of will fall into place as you hear from others.  Many cities have support groups that are run by professional counselors to provide this sort of care to abuse survivors.  If you are located in St. Louis, MO and would like this information please contact me and I will be happy to assist you.

Learn from the experts.  Finding clarity through learning and gaining understanding about your abuse, and more broadly about abusers, will be beneficial when seeking clarity.  A book that many victims of abuse find helpful is Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.  This book will provide insight into the minds and ways of abusive men.  It will also help bring understanding and insight into the life you are still living or have broken free from.  Another book equally as helpful is written by Patricia Evans, and it is called The Verbally Abusive Relationship.

If you choose to go to counseling (which I think is extremely beneficial!) be sure to find a counselor that has experience working with abuse/abuse survivors.  Going to a counselor that does not have this sort of experience can prove to only further your confusion.

These suggestions are the first steps in your journey to find clarity in the midst of confusion.  Each of these suggestions have one aspect in common – finding clarity and healing is best achieved in community and not alone.

-by: Lianne Johnson, LPC

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.)

How Do You Define Abuse?

With so many opinions and definitions in our culture about abuse, how do you define abuse?

Must a bruise be present for you to believe your friend or neighbor is being abused?  If there is not bruising, can abuse still be happening in a home?  Why is it when women sit in my office trying to share with me their story of abuse their eyes are hooked on the floor, shame is palpable in the room, words start to flow out of their mouths but then stop as though they are scared to say anything?  I believe abused women are scared to say, “I’m being abused” because they are often disregarded and misunderstood.

It seems fair to say that as a culture we do not fully grasp what abuse is and the many forms it presents itself.

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The following definition of abuse can be found at Crying Out For Justice.  Its a little long, but please stick with me.

“Abuse is fundamentally a mentality. It is a mindset of entitlement. The abuser sees himself* as entitled. He is the center of the world, and he demands that his victim make him the center of her world. His goal is power and control over others. For him, power and control are his natural right, and he feels quite justified in using whatever means are necessary to obtain that power and control. The abuser is not hampered in these efforts by the pangs of a healthy conscience and indeed often lacks a conscience.

While this mentality of power and control often expresses itself in various forms of physical abuse, it just as frequently employs tactics of verbal, emotional, financial, social, sexual and spiritual abuse. Thus, an abuser may never actually lay a hand on his wife and yet be very actively terrorizing her in incredibly damaging ways.”

Was your definition similar to the one above?  In my experience, we tend to think about someone who abuses as simply having an anger problem.  We say, “If he would just go to an anger-management program and counseling and work hard everything will be fine.”  This is how I used to think, but not anymore.

I have been learning a lot about the nature of abusive men.  Partly because of my own personal story and partly because I work with many who are wounded by abuse.  Our society seems to think that an abuser just needs to change his behavior by going to counseling, anger-management classes, and read books (or some variation thereof).

But an abuser doesn’t need to change his behavior, he needs to change his beliefs.

His fundamental thinking in which he believes he is entitled to treat his spouse however he would like.  For me, this shift in thinking has monumentally changed how I view abusive men and how I care for those who have been wounded.

Did you know…

-An abuser isn’t always abusive?  He will go through days and months without being abusive.  This can cause confusion on behalf of the abused.

-An abuser wants to create as much confusion as possible to those seeking to “figure him out”.  So he will try to get you (the abused, the counselor, the friend, the pastor) to focus in the wrong direction.  Oftentimes this will look like the abuser blaming the spouse for all of the relational problems and painting himself to be the victim.

-An abuser is usually the guy everyone likes.  He’s easily likable, enjoyable, and can tend to come across as laid-back.

-An abuser will want you to focus on his feelings but not his thinking.  He fears that if you figure out his thinking you will strip him of his power to control.  Hence why he seeks to create as much confusion as possible (see above).

It is important that we begin to grasp the nature of abusers so that we can see it, stop it, and seek to bring healing.

 

-By Lianne Johnson, LPC

*For this post I used the male gender to represent the abuser and the female to represent the abused.  The genders could easily be reversed, and in no way am I saying it can’t.  Some of the above thoughts are adapted from Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That?, which is an amazingly great book.

Abuse is Abuse. Period.

While the impact of abuse on a person’s soul may actualize differently, we need to break free from old ways of thinking.  Abuse is abuse.  Period.

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It never ceases to amaze me how people still seem to define what abuse is and isn’t, and what abuse a person should just “put up with” for the sake of preserving the martial relationship.  I once heard a mental health professional tell a client, “as long as he (the husband) isn’t hitting you then you need to stick it out.”  This professional was saying this to a woman who had been suffering through emotional and mental abuse by her husband for over 8 years.  This post is not about whether the abused should or shouldn’t leave or divorce their partner when abuse of any kind is taking place – so let’s not get hung up on that issue.  This post is about brining awareness that abuse is happening in your community and the abused deserve more from the person they trust to disclose to then just “stick it out” or any type of response that undermines the abused.  We need to listen.  We need to protect.  We need to advocate.  But the truth is, this mental health professional’s view on abuse is not uncommon in our society that demands physical and visual proof of something before its believed.

The reality is, out of the many types of abuse a person can experience, only one type (physical abuse and sometimes this remains hidden as well) will outwardly produce the physical and visible proof our society tends to want in order to believe a person is being abused.

Since we know abuse can remain hidden from us so easily, why do you think we still tend to respond to a persons disclosure of abuse with suspicion or disbelief?  It is a question for us all to ponder.

Instead of responding in these ways, why not chose to BELIEVE and not question the validity of what you hear?  It doesn’t matter if you think their partner is or isn’t capable of abusive behaviors.  It doesn’t matter if the abused has their own flaws in the relationship.

We are not listening to the one abused to judge them, provide excuses for the abuser, or justify abusive behavior.  Abuse is wrong, but until we stop providing excuses and justifications the abused will have to continue to fight to be heard and believed.

Here are some thoughts on how to support the abused.  What I am about to share with you is just a snippet out of Lundy Bancroft’s book, Why Does He Do That.  To learn more about each of these points please read his book.  The following information can be found on pages 370-372.  This book is a must read for everyone.

How to care for the abused: (this list shows the difference in how you can care from that of the abuser)

1.  The abuser:  Pressures her severely

So you should:  Be patient.  Remember that it takes time for an abused woman to sort out her confusion and figure out how to handle her situation.

2.  The abuser:  Talks down to her

So you should:  Address her as an equal.  Avoid all traces of condescension or superior knowledge in your voice.

3.  The abuser:  Thinks he knows what is good for her better than she does

So you should:  Treat her as the expert on her own life.  Don’t assume that you know what she needs to do.

4.  The abuser:  Dominates conversations

So you should:  Listen more and talk less.

5.  The abuser:  Believes he has the right to control her life

So you should:  Respect her right to self-determination

6.  The abuser:  Assumes he understands her children and their needs better than she does

So you should:  Assume she is a competent, caring mother.  Remember that there is no simple way to determine        what is best for the children of an abused woman.

7.  The abuser:  Thinks for her

So you should:  Think with her.  Don’t assume the role of teacher or rescuer.  Instead, join forces with her as a respectful and equal team member.

-Lianne Johnson, LPC