Domestic abuse leaves a lasting impact on the lives it affects. You don’t just get over it, and the toxic effects of abuse can still show up and affect your life years afterwards.
Despite increased awareness, domestic abuse is now at epidemic levels, and unless we start doing things differently, it’s a problem that is going to get a lot worse.
We need to start having honest conversations about the reality of the situation so we can turn the tide on domestic abuse and create real lasting change.
My own healing journey began in 2010, when my children and I moved 200 miles away from family and friends to flee an abusive relationship that had brought devastation into our lives and reduced me to a shell of the person I once was. Without a doubt, the most heartbreaking part of my journey was seeing how deeply it had affected my children.
Although I was determined for things to change and tried everything I could to recover and help them, it was exhausting and nothing worked in the long term. After I suffered a number of health problems, my youngest son had a breakdown just before his 12th birthday, and I embarked on a mission to find answers and solutions. I immersed myself in learning and training and discovered the missing link that changed everything.
In recent years there have been huge advances in neuroscience research, and we now know so much more about trauma and how the body works than we have ever known before. This has deepened our understanding of domestic abuse, how it impacts lives, and more importantly, how we break the cycle of abuse.
We now have the ability to create real lasting change in our lives, families and world that just wasn’t possible until now.
That change starts with deep understanding, and changing the way we look at and think about abuse, healing, and parenting.
Domestic abuse starts and ends with trauma.
Abusers aren’t born, they are created. Although genetics has a part to play, the environment a child grows up in plays a much bigger role.
In most cases, abusers are unable and unwilling to make the decision to heal. To do that you have to accept responsibility for your choices and actions, but they deeply believe others are at fault and to blame, so don’t feel there is anything to take responsibility for. Even if they do, their deeply embedded fear, shame and survival strategies mean they are unwilling to commit long term to the healing work necessary to create change.
Early trauma is also the magnet that brings abusers and victims together, and why we don’t see, or ignore, the early warning signs of an abusive relationship. It also creates the perfect environment for trauma bonding to develop, making it very hard to leave an abusive relationship.
I want to make something very clear here. This is NOT victim blaming. While abuse is never your fault, you weren’t to blame, and you didn’t deserve it, recognising how it happened in the first place and taking responsibility for your future is an important and essential part of healing.
Domestic abuse is a complex trauma. You don’t just get over it. Time doesn’t heal it. Left unresolved, it affects everything you do and don’t do.
Trauma is not just a cognitive experience; it is deeply embedded into our bodies and nervous systems and cannot be healed by talking about it, thinking positively or reframing things… no matter how hard you try.
For years now, support services for victims and survivors have been decreasing, and there has been an increased lack of long term support available, especially for parents.
But parents hold the key to creating real change.
Domestic abuse has a huge impact on children, and they don’t need to witness, hear or experience abuse for it to have a lasting and overwhelming affect on their lives.
The first few years our lives create the foundations for how we live our lives as adults.
Without healing early trauma, these children grow up to be traumatised adults… and the cycle repeats itself. This was proved by the ACE (adverse childhood experiences) study.
The cycles of family dysfunction and dysregulation have been passing down the generations for years, gathering momentum as it travelled like a snowball falling down a mountain, because we didn’t know how to stop it.
While it was gathering momentum, our world was changing and evolving too. Healing trauma has never been more important than it is now. Unresolved trauma is the biggest problem we, our children, and our world faces.
Healing trauma at the nervous system level, and unlocking our body’s natural ability to heal itself, holds the key to creating lasting change and turning the tide on domestic abuse. Creating real lasting change.
Children who are conceived and born where domestic abuse is present have a traumatic start to life, which affects their ability to feel safe, trust and bond. They suffer developmental trauma.
They then repeatedly suffer overwhelming, distressing and frightening experiences which get trapped in their body, nervous system and psyche. They suffer complex trauma.
They need therapeutic reparenting to repair that damage and fill in the gaps they’ve missed, so they can make sense of themselves and the world around them. ‘Normal’ parenting doesn’t work.
This presents unique challenges for parents after abuse, especially when they are dealing with the impact of complex trauma themselves, their children have contact with an abusive parent and are managing ongoing trauma, and especially when the people and professionals around them don’t understand.
Children need their non-abusive parent to be a few steps ahead of them with their healing to become the therapeutic parent they need and give them a brighter future. They cannot do this alone, and parents need the practical support, skills and strategies to do this.
Our world has changed, and the face of domestic abuse has changed. We need to respond to that in a compassionate, courageous way, and start treating the root cause instead of just the symptoms.
Deep understanding holds the key to real change.
Our children need everyone to understand because they can’t.
When we understand what’s really going on, it changes the way we look at and respond to everything.
Things can change when we start doing things differently, start looking at abuse and parenting through a trauma lens, and start healing trauma at the nervous system level.
Sian Hill is a mBIT master coach and educator, who teaches women how to heal trauma in their families after domestic abuse, create lasting change in their lives, for their children, and in our world, and find true freedom from their past.
You can find more information and resources to help you heal yourself and your children.
READ THE OTHER ARTICLE FROM THE CAMPAIGN: