Understanding Domestic Violence

When we say Domestic Violence, people usually think that it’s physical/sexual assault. But domestic abuse manifests in many forms – physical, sexual, emotional & intimidation control, financial, isolation, and verbal. It is very common, yet, is often denied, or excused. This is especially true in psychological abuse.

Domestic violence and abuse do not discriminate. It can happen to anyone despite one’s gender, social status, age, ethnicity, and size. Although women are mostly the victims of abuse, men also suffer abuse. They are mostly the victims of emotional & verbal abuse. The victims should realise that love and abuse don’t go together.

While physically hurting a person like beating etc., restraining them in any manner, interrupting their normal cycles of food and sleep, constitutes physical abuse; emotional abuse & intimidation is mostly being dominant, invading personal space, always doubting the victim, jealousy, insulting & threatening, neglecting victim’s opinions & needs, creating confusion & insecurity by making reality distorting statements to break victim’s self-esteem.

Non-consensual sex, intimidating one’s body & sexuality, withholding sex as a control mechanism, etc. come under sexual abuse. Financial abuse consists of restricting the victim to spend money, and wasting all the money on things like alcohol and drugs. In India, domestic violence also includes dowry deaths and honor killings.

Abuse affects each person differently. But the usual physical effects include chronic pains; gastrointestinal problems; sexual, reproductive, and menstrual issues; and problems in central nervous system. The psychological effects include anxiety; depression; post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); fear of intimacy; suicidal thoughts; and trust issues.

Psychotherapy can help survivors of abuse express and process difficult emotions associated with the abuse, develop self-compassion and self-care strategies, and begin to learn to trust again. Many therapeutic approaches can be beneficial from narrative therapy to eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Additionally practising mindfulness techniques such as meditation; or experiential techniques such as music therapy and art therapy can also help.

Group therapy has demonstrated effectiveness in providing social support to help survivors of abuse cope with and transform their feelings of shame, guilt, and alienation from others as they interact and bond with other people who have lived through similar experiences. For those who fear the vulnerability and exposure they may experience in a group setting, individual counselling can be the best way.

Never forget your self-worth. The one who really loves you never hurts you. But if you are facing any kind of abuse, please seek help. Talk to people you trust. You are NOT alone. There’s always hope. Don’t lose it.

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