Whether it is coercion, control, physical violence or verbal abuse, we can all comprehend the plight of the survivor and their need for advice; their want of change or to flee. Once removed from the battle, what we are left with is a soul who has been at war in their own home, someone who trusted yet doubts their judgement and one who, initially at least, constantly contemplates the situation that they have left.
Have they done the right thing? Who was to blame? Why did it take this long? Would they ever heal?
Abuse and its after effects are traumatic, they are life-changing and they never leave you. It is like coming out of war, but you are left behind with shrapnel injuries.
To accept what has happened to you and that this can change your mindset, is the first step in healing. Women, and men, face it from the very people who are the ones who should be the most caring towards you. To face this, in what seems like an endless period when you are completely immersed inside it, changes your perspective on others and the relationship you have with them.
We have to understand the importance of not letting the past define your future and your present, even though there should be active acknowledgement of it. It is both rain and sun that makes a plant grow.
Your thoughts and your decisions, once put in the hands of Allah, are final. We can all live in regret and ponder upon past experiences but this will not aid us in developing into better humans and learning from our journey and the situation that we were placed in. Differentiating between what was your decision and what was completely out of hands is important because as survivors of domestic abuse, we tend to blame ourselves for everything that has happened but not a leaf falls without the knowledge and foresight of Allah.
Counselling is important and some would say is vital in the healing process. Your counsellor gets to know you, and by that I mean, gets to know your insecurities and feelings about your recent and distant past. Personally speaking, and from discussion with others, we tend not to reveal our deepest thoughts and worries to our family and friends, which is completely understandable.
The thought of burdening them with our problems, especially with family, the thought of adding to their stress and concerns, is not an option for some.
Putting a brave face on to difficult family members to show them there is nothing to worry about and that you can deal with the situation can be the easy option but feels turbulent. And for those with understanding families, it can come as comfort to know that they are there to support you at home. With a counsellor there is no need to worry about them being judgemental, how you make them feel, and their thoughts of you and the way you dealt with a situation.
They are trained to speak to you in a certain way, especially those specialised in domestic abuse cases, and they can discuss with you the reasons of your reactions to the situations you were placed in, in order to help you to move forward.
Counsellors can be a blessing to those of us who don’t want to accept the journey we have found ourselves in, and the trauma we have suffered.
They allow us to have a safe space to cry, to let our emotions run freely and this can be a cathartic experience for those who are constantly holding it in. As I said before, once you have accepted it, there is opportunity to move on. Counsellors do not tell you what to do, they believe that you know what is best for you and they help you to be true to yourself and to discover what you need in this healing process.
As I am writing through experience, in addition to undergoing counselling, I have actively sought to build a network around me of those I can trust and confide in.
Group counselling and support groups allow us to be more authentic as there is universality to our struggles, that we are not alone and that unfortunately many people have had to face a relationship which can sound eerily similar to yours. Even certain phrases that perpetrators use give you reassurance you didn’t just imagine it all and there are others who will validate your experiences.
Gaining insight to other peoples’ lives, discussing tips, asking for advice and working together can be an easy path towards a healthy healing. Sometimes this is better done post individual counselling sessions. Listening to experiences now from someone who is from a completely different culture and socio-economical status still resonates so deeply within me as if she is telling me my story, and I find myself questioning if I had already told her this and she is just relaying what I experienced. Not surprisingly some personality traits and habits of the abuser are universal. This also adds to a wider perspective of world view that I have found; that we are all not dissimilar to each other, regardless of race, religion, and class.
Arriving At Healing
Healing in a healthy manner also includes having a bit of a don’t care attitude to those who commit to making us feel as small as possible. Those who believe that meticulously discussing all of the red flags that we should have seen will help you whilst you are healing, those who belittle your decisions as to why you didn’t leave sooner and why didn’t you disclose your concerns, those who will say that this is the end of your life and that there is now no hope for your future.
To those people, please stay out of this; this is not helpful and not true.
We are not solely a definition of our past and there are good people out there to meet when the time is right, but to cause additional concern and to re-discuss the cultural stigma that should now be dead and buried, is not going to help the person that you are indeed trying to help.
We are more than just survivors, we carry many titles and being a survivor is just one of our tittles. Do not reduce as to victims only.
To my fellow survivors…
Take no notice of the negativities around you, focus and seek help from those who can help you move forward and take their advice. There are many of us who have come out of a situation like this and are now thriving.
The benefits of praying and understanding that as much as we look retrospectively, and think how we should and would have done things differently, this path was written for us and now it is our choice to make the best out of the situation, and to get the best out of our God given test, can heal you quicker and better. I gained an understanding that many struggle to have and even myself before I was in a situation like this.
The only representation of a woman abused that I saw was of Lil’ Mo in Eastenders. I saw the survivors as victims, feeble, unwilling to change their position in a relationship. Oh, how wrong I was. Growing up I had physical fights with my brothers and was taught how to throw a punch! Survivors are mentally and emotionally tortured and you are stripped of your identity and come out as a version of yourself you have never seen before.
However, re-building myself has been a somewhat enjoyable experience for me.
I went back to doing what I was stopped from doing, I did activities I had never done before, I discovered some new friends and strengthened my bond with old friends. I didn’t come out my marriage stronger, but after the healing process, I am now stronger and in control of my journey again.
I have encountered other survivors in my journey and to other fellow survivors I say this you are more than what you think you are. You need time to heal and develop. Be keen to seek help as this opens many doors for you. Be open to changing your understanding of your experience. Unfortunately it is true what they say, healing takes time. I’d like to add that it takes time and also needs proactive effort towards good and healthy healing which in turn can be enjoyable.
The journey does not stop here for you, rather, with healthy healing, this is the start of a new chapter in your life.
Sumi has volunteered for Nour Domestic Violence for a number of years and is passionate about empowering women who have been through domestic violence through counselling. Nour Domestic Violence provides free counselling to survivors of domestic violence. For support, please visit nour-dv.org.uk.