Victims of abuse face a problem once they have finally gathered the courage to leave the relationship.
They have to face the world, open up about the abuse, tell others. This, in itself, is a difficult thing to to. Victims feel ashamed that they allowed themselves to be sucked into such a situation, they feel as though no one will believe them.
There are things you can do as the friends, family and essential support network of a victim of domestic abuse, and here are just a few basic pointers.
Firstly, believe them. The abuse DID happen. Victims don’t make this stuff up. They don’t concoct feelings of shame, uselessness, lack of confidence, nervousness or anxiety. They have been abused. Systematically. Over a long period of time. They’re likely confused themselves and need reassurance that you believe them, that they aren’t going mad. They have been abused. Emotionally. Mentally. Physically. And they will doubt themselves, but…
Abuse is abuse. No matter what form it takes.
And abuse damages the very soul of the victim. Lots of support is needed to undo the psychological and emotional scars abuse leaves in it’s wake. You don’t just ‘get over it’. The abuse has left scars and confusion. It has attempted to change the victim to suit the perpetrators ideal of them. Victims often don’t know if their thoughts are their own, or if they are thoughts that have been left over from the brainwashing.
The abuse doesn’t stop at the end of a relationship. Abusers continue to abuse, in any form they can, after a victim has left an abuser. They don’t suddenly come to their senses and stop. Perpetrators feel mortally wounded by the victims rejection, or their perception of rejection in any case. Abusers are used to getting their own way. And the way they got it was by abusing. So they continue, especially when there is a divorce case, finances to split or children involved. Abusers use all of these thing to continue to try and control the victim. Sometimes using the law to assist them.
Make an effort to learn about domestic abuse.
The patterns are always the same. It is, in fact, the patterns that define abuse from more normal behaviours within relationships. Common behaviours at the end of an abusive relationship can include:
Abusers accusing perfectly good mothers of being neglectful. They tell everyone what a terrible person she is. They character assassinate the victim in order to absolve themselves of their own appalling behaviour. They are afraid that if their victim speaks out, people will know them for who they really are. So they jump in first. Telling all and sundry how awful it was for them. How they was no less than driven to that behaviour. How it was all her fault.
They often suddenly want custody of the children, even if they had little to do with their every day well being within the relationship. They involve the children. They try to alienate the children from the victim. They tell sob stories about how terrible she was to him. How he was driven to this abusive behaviour because the victim was so stupid, lazy, thoughtless, mad, *insert insult here*.
They may money grab, telling everyone how they worked so hard for all they have. How it is theirs. How the victim was a freeloader and should be grateful they’re getting anything at all.
They use the divorce as a victim bashing process, tell lies, exaggerate, concoct stories about the victim to make themselves look *hard done by*. They don’t see it as a necessary legal step to separate, they see it as the law supporting their view of the victim therefore justifying their abusive behaviour. They harass, stalk (in person or on the internet), bother, deliberately create difficulties and put obstacles in the way of the victim being able to move on without them.
They want revenge. Or if not revenge, they want absolution for their behaviour. They tell the world and her mother how terrible the victim is as a person. They tell anyone who will listen. They justify, discount and minimise their own behaviour and want to hear you agree with how unreasonable the victim is. No matter how half heartedly you might agree. You’ve agreed in their mind. That’s enough for them. Another step towards complete absolution. They will use anything and everything you say against the victim. There is no moral compass here, just their thirst for revenge and the desire to be justified. They will use your mother, your siblings, your best friends words against the victim, with no shame. When called out on it, they will outright deny, minimise, say it was all a misunderstanding and tell you the victim is hysterical, mental, bonkers. But the victim isn’t mad.
As the friends and family of an abuse victim and perpetrator, there is a game being played and you’re a pawn in it, whether you want to be or not. It’s all a game. Only one person knows the rules. It is the perpetrator alone that picks them and changes them, as and when it suits. They will say one thing to you and another to the victim and something entirely different to someone else. Abusers don’t *care*, those tears aren’t real. The over concern is false. An abuser saying he’s only trying to be *helpful* to the victim is another form of control and ultimately it will be used against her.
The key thing to remember here is that it is a game. The game of *lets make the victim look bad*, and the first rule is… They make the rules. There are no boundaries, no subject off topic, no privacy rights and absolutely no playing the perpetrator at his own game. The nicer you are as a person the easier it is for you to be manipulated by the abuser. Ideally the abuser would like you to question your allegiances to your friend/daughter/sibling. That would be the best outcome for them. So you too can see what a terrible person the victim is and join the abuser in justifying the abuse, or even just get you to stop talking to them, effectively destroying their support network. They’d like to see a family row. People cutting others off. Telling the victim she’s ‘overreacting’ again. Discord and the destroying of the victim’s support network is the ultimate aim. He wants to leave her stranded, alone, preferably broke and without her children and family.
Are we getting a picture here? There is only one aim. Destroy the victim. Provoke reactions. Exacerbate stress. Watch the victim struggle with depression or other mental health difficulties. That way they can say they were reasonable to abuse. Look what they had to put up with? Those poor darlings having to put up with a stark raving bonkers wife/partner. If only she’d been more perfect, less nagging, tidier. If only she hadn’t wanted to have her own mind and make her own decisions. No wonder they snapped, shouted, insulted, controlled, punched them. Right?
No. Not right.
So if you really want to help, stand up, be counted and don’t keep quiet. Tell the perpetrator where he can stick it, then go little or no contact, it is the only way, subtleties are completely lost on them. Don’t allow yourself to be dragged into victim bashing conversations. Even if you’re not being negative, the abuser will use something you’ve said, no matter how well meaning, against the victim. Support and reassure the victim. And please, keep supporting them because, believe me, they have a long road to travel. Tell the perpetrator in no uncertain terms that they are abusive and that you will not tolerate it for one more second.
Stand up and say a very LOUD *NO!* to abuse.
Abuse happens in all kinds of relationships, though abusers are often men and victims are often women, we know very well that this is not always the case.
We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature. Many small voices make one LOUD voice.
Domestic abuse damages in whatever form and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.
We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.
If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.