Dealing with the aftermath of domestic violence
I wish that this wasn’t the case, but I’m currently helping a few clients deal with situations of domestic violence. Some still in the danger zone. Others now in a place of safety. But all of them dealing with the aftermath of domestic violence.
Each time I hear stories of domestic violence, my inner Wonder Woman wants to protect the victims and annihilate the perpetrators.
The reason it generates so many feelings in me is because for a brief, but terrifying period, domestic violence affected my family too.
When I was in my early teens a member of my family dated an asshole. Whenever she tried to leave him he punched her in the face. I never witnessed the domestic violence first hand, just the ensuing black eyes, tears and confusion each time she took him back out of sheer terror.
Even if I had witnessed the violence first hand, I’m sure I would have been frozen to the spot in fear, but I carry with me this strange mixture of guilt for not having protected her somehow, and fury at him for having picked on someone so small and vulnerable.
Whenever these feelings arise from my unconscious I work through them in a safe, therapeutic way with my own therapist, so that my own ‘stuff’ doesn’t get in the way of helping my clients.
I metaphorically “killed” him in my early psychotherapy training. The full force of my teenage feelings resurfaced 30 years later as I let out my anger in a safe, therapeutic space.
Obviously I didn’t want to really kill him. I’m not a violent person. However, part of me wanted him to hurt as much as he had hurt her.
My rage exhausted, I sobbed and sobbed. Tears of frustration that there was no one there to protect us. Tears of grief for not having been able to protect her, even though I was little and needed protecting myself.
Having processed these historical emotions that were trapped in my body and mind, the feelings have less hold on me. I am able to help others without getting triggered.
Now as a therapist myself, I have the tools to help other people through the aftermath of domestic violence. At times my role is just to provide emotional and psychological support to get them ready to leave (if that is what they want). And at other times we may work through feelings of fear, grief, guilt and anger.
So if you are a victim of domestic violence yourself – male or female, or just a witness like me, please know that you don’t have to live with the aftermath of domestic violence in your system – you can get emotional and psychological support – from a counsellor, from helplines and legal advice.
Here are some helpful contacts for Queensland:
DV Connect (for both male and female victims of domestic violence)
Womens Line: 1800 811 811 Queensland-wide. Calls are free from any public phone (24×7) http://www.dvconnect.org/womensline/
Mens Line: 1800 600 636 Queensland-wide service that operates between the hours of 9am and midnight, 7 days a week. http://www.dvconnect.org/mensline/
Womens Legal Service Helpline
T: 1800 WLS WLS (1800 957 957) Monday – Friday: 9am – 3pm.
Rural, Regional & Remote Legal Advice Line – 1800 457 117 Tuesday: 9.30am – 1.30pm