Experiences of domestic violence are reported on a daily basis, with a great deal of stigma attached to them across different cultures, including our ethnic communities. The statistics are not good and during the current pandemic, are getting worse. The victims can be of both genders, but women are more often the sufferers of the abuse. One in four women experience domestic violence and in 90% of such related incidents, children are present or in the next room.
Police receive a domestic violence related call every minute. Domestic violence commonly includes any physical violence, verbal or mental abuse, sexual harassment and any form of control with enforced social rejection, isolation as well as financial control carried out by spouses, or extended family members such as in-laws.
During to current restrictions over the last year, families have been facing extra pressures that impact on their mental wellbeing, and certainly more so with members who already struggle to cope with repeated experiences of abuse. Financial uncertainty due to jobs being furloughed or lost, lockdowns, alcoholism, drug abuse and gambling, are factors deteriorating the already excruciating circumstances of domestic violence. What is important to recognise is the undeniable fact that prolonged abuse is debilitating, leaving the victim with damaged self-esteem and mentally drained in their desperate attempts to stand up to bullying. As mentioned earlier, the stigma attached to such experiences makes matters worse for the victim, who often feels alone and compelled to bear the abuse in silence in order to avoid societal and familial disapproval from the children and/or the extended family members. On the other hand, we often witness in family therapy, the resentment expressed by younger generations towards the effects of such early life traumatic experiences on their psychological development, and on their own choices later in their adult lives.
Psychological services aim to intervene early and restore the balance in the family, by helping primarily the perpetrator to recognise and critically reflect on their abusive behaviour, understand the reasons behind the choice to be violent and learn new skills on how to stop the patterns of abuse. When the circumstances prove too challenging, it is important for the victims to know that they should not feel judged but supported by the available services in their efforts to find the strength to report the violence, take action to escape and protect themselves and those dependant on them.
Psychotherapist for Alpha Care Counselling Service