Domestic violence and women
If you have experienced domestic violence, and you are a woman, you are not alone. The majority of those who suffer domestic violence are women, and most perpetrators of that violence are men. That’s what the research tells us, and that is our experience as an organization. Domestic violence is a gendered issue, because it’s not just about measuring acts of physical or verbal violence – it’s about a pattern of behaviour that is designed to control and intimidate the less powerful person in the relationship. Understanding this pattern, and its repetition at the personal level, is important in order to change it at the societal level. It is this pattern of behaviour which makes it a social, rather than just a personal problem. Having seen this pattern over and over and over again means that we as workers can recognize and predict the types of experiences victims go through.
At Louisa, we have worked with women who are escaping domestic violence and their children for many years. Our refuge is purpose built to house families, and for most women, our follow-up surveys show that being at the refuge is an incredibly positive experience for them. We give as much support as we can to women, but often what is equally valuable is the help and support women get from other women. Knowing that we are not alone, and sharing stories that are identical in all but the names, makes us finally understand that the abuse is not about us, it’s about them. It is almost funny to witness a woman saying to another with great astonishment ” but that’s what my partner says to me!” The bonds that are forged can last many years, and the relationships that develop between women and between children go part of the way to overcoming social isolation and the psychological and emotional trauma suffered as a result of what is often years of abuse.
Women who suffer domestic violence also suffer many other hardships as a result of that violence. If you have to leave your home and if your partner was the main breadwinner, then financially, it is often difficult for a while. You may have legal issues that need to be resolved, making you feel stressed and often powerless. You may also have problems with your mental and physical health. Generally women feel a lot of anxiety about their children, around where they will live and how contact with the other party will work, as well as dealing with the effects of children witnessing or experiencing abuse by the partner. And many quite rightly continue to fear for their safety.
All of these feelings and experiences are common for women escaping domestic violence. But over time, those feelings of stress and anxiety lessen, and women and children find themselves able to begin the healing process and to move on. And however difficult the process of leaving a violent relationship is, in the long run, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and for your children. You all deserve a future where you can live free from violence and able to realize your potential.