Breaking the silence: Recovery after domestic violence

Domestic violence is a heart-breaking and pervasive form of abuse that can happen in intimate relationships or family settings. It involves behaviours aimed at controlling a partner or family member, and it can take many forms, including physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and financial abuse.

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Physical abuse might involve hitting, slapping, or choking, while emotional and psychological abuse can include insults, threats, manipulation, and isolation. Sexual abuse refers to any non-consensual sexual activity, and financial abuse involves controlling or limiting access to financial resources, creating dependency. Technological abuse, a newer form, includes using technology to monitor, stalk, or harass.

In the UK, domestic violence affects a significant number of people. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), an estimated 2.3 million adults aged 16 to 74 experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2022. This includes approximately 1.6 million women and 757,000 men. One in five adults has experienced at least one form of domestic abuse since the age of 16, with women more likely to have experienced abuse than men. These numbers remind us of the urgent need for awareness, prevention, and support for those affected.

The impact of domestic violence is profound and far-reaching, affecting your physical health, mental well-being, and social life. Physically, the effects can range from bruises and broken bones to chronic health conditions and disabilities. Survivors may also experience gynaecological issues, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy complications. Emotionally, the toll includes anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), low self-esteem, and feelings of helplessness.

The constant state of fear and vigilance can lead to sleep disturbances, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts. Socially, domestic violence often isolates you from family, friends, and support networks, leading to a lack of social support, increased vulnerability, and difficulty in maintaining employment or education.

Therapy can help you recover and rebuild your life. It offers a confidential and safe environment to share your experiences without fear of judgment or retaliation. This space is essential for building trust and beginning the healing process. Therapists can help you process your trauma, manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, and work through feelings of guilt and shame. Techniques such as CBT can be particularly effective in changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. Therapy helps you regain control over your life by empowering you to make decisions, build self-esteem, and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

In addition to emotional and psychological healing, therapists can assist you in creating safety plans that outline steps to take in case of further abuse. These plans might include emergency contacts, safe places to go, and legal actions. Therapy encourages you to rebuild your social connections and seek support from friends, family, and community resources. 

Domestic violence leaves a lasting impact, affecting every aspect of your life. However, with the support of therapy, you can begin to heal from your trauma, rebuild your self-esteem, and regain control over your life. Therapy offers a holistic approach to recovery, addressing the emotional scars and the practical challenges you may face. Providing a safe space, fostering empowerment, and reconnecting you with support networks, therapy plays an indispensable role in your journey toward healing and resilience.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, know that you are not alone and that there is help available. You deserve to live free from fear and pain, and with the right support, you can overcome the trauma and rebuild your life. Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or professional who can guide you to resources that can help. Healing is possible, and a brighter future awaits you. Take the first step today toward reclaiming your strength and independence.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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St. Neots PE19 & Bedford MK40
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Written by Donna West, MBACP (Accred)ACTO (Snr) Psychotherapist/Clinical supervisor
St. Neots PE19 & Bedford MK40

I have worked with an array of clients whom have accessed counselling for varying reasons that they feel are inhibiting them from living an authentic life. My role within the therapeutic relationship is to work alongside an individual to facilitate self-exploration and consider alternative routes that may lay before them.

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