“All women who escape abuse have thought during years, “I can’t get out”. In the end, they did, you can.”
You deserve to feel safe, it is your right. Family should protect you, not make you vulnerable to physical, financial, emotional and verbal abuse. You have realised that you are in an abusive relationship and have decided to take action, to take control.
It’s understandable to feel trapped and helpless, to feel scared of leaving. Feeling terrified and vulnerable within your relationship however, is not normal. For any woman in a relationship, it is not easy to leave – especially for women of domestic abuse. They have had their confidence and social circles stripped away from them, they have taken emotional beatings as well as physical and are left feeling frightened, vulnerable and fearful of what may happen next.
Abusive partners are controlling, this need for control increases when a women decides to leave as the partner senses that he is starting to loose control.
- Physical Abuse: Kicking, punching, pinching, arm twisting, forcing you to take alcohol or drugs.
- Sexual Abuse: rape, sodomy, criticising sexual performance or desirability, having sex with others.
- Psychological Abuse: dominance, instilling fear, harassment, stalking, isolating you from friends and family.
- Emotional Abuse: inducing guilt and shame, constant criticism, making fun of your abilities and skills.
- Financial Abuse: taking away your sources of finance- your job, to make you more financially dependent on your partner, therefore less able to leave.
It is more than understandable to be scared to leave, but fear should not be the reason that you stay in an abusive relationship. Chayn can help from here.
Telling friends and family why you are afraid to leave
Make friends and family understand why you are afraid to leave; it needs to be explained. It is vitally important that you get their support. Perhaps you have covered up the abuse to protect them, so this will come as a shock. Maybe they have witnessed a “domestic violence incident” but they have explained it away by a “one time occurrence” not wanting to face the reality that their daughter, sister or friend is in. Often they can feel that your relationship is not their place to intrude, “it’s between man and woman”. Now is the time to change that, to let them know You need their help.
Cultural and Religious values can be used as a form of control – like being the “perfect” mother and wife – by constantly obeying your husband and putting up with his abuse. Not wanting to bring shame on the family by divorcing or leaving your partner is another controlling threat women suffering through domestic abuse face.
Ask your friends and family, and most importantly yourself: what good comes from upholding these religious and cultural “norms” and traditional beliefs, when it is these same beliefs that leave you and your children vulnerable to domestic abuse?
Laying some of these points out to family and friends will help them to understand just a small portion of the turmoil you have been going through. If you have been isolated from them, this can help break down barriers.
Talk to them about:
- Believing this behaviour from your partner is a “one off”.
- That he can change- honeymoon periods between the violence can make you more hopeful, leaving you wanting to renew your love and commitment.
- Not having the confidence or strength to leave.
- Not having the opportunity to speak out.
Your family need to be fully aware of the potential hazards that can be involved in leaving an abusive relationship:
- The levels of violence can increase- a method used to intimidate and threaten so that the abuser can regain control.
- The survivor may leave and return several times before having the courage to leave for long term.
- Survivors can leave with the help of restraining orders and community resources- such as shelters where there is also financial aid available. Most importantly though, using social networks such as family and friends.
- It is terrifying and daunting, but fear should not be the ultimate dictator in keeping you in an abusive relationship.
Self-esteem is a view of the self: of how we see ourselves. Constant verbal emotional and mental abuse leaves you feeling worthless, affects your mental health and ability to leave.
- Realise your potential– Probably the most obvious way to support your self-esteem, but no doubt, the most challenging. Realise the skills that you have- you can run a home, feed the family and budget; these are management skills. Women are hard on themselves and life is hard enough without adding another critic. You are capable of so much and deserve to be treated well – you are worth So Much More.
- Women– You are not alone. Women need to work together to help bring an end to Domestic Violence. With an estimated 80% (AHRC, 2011) of women in Pakistan experiencing some form of abuse (with the majority of cases still not being reported) you need to seek support in those around you. With 4 out of every 5 Pakistani Women experiencing domestic abuse, You are not alone. Turn to the Women in your social circles or in your family, as can they can empathise and have the potential to be your strongest support network.
- Get independent help. Talking to helplines and getting in touch with Shelters and support groups can offer supportive and unbiased advice.
- Goals– create a list of goals you want to meet. Make these realistic, small goals that get you moving towards a positive direction- i.e. talk to more women in my social group, the burden and expectation placed on me is too high- it is unrealistic.
- Acknowledge that you are in an abusive relationship.
- You are not guilty
- You are not to blame
The fear you feel is real, the danger you feel is real too. Accepting this is extremely difficult but it may help with making you more motivated to leave and take some control over the situation.
- Form an escape plan. It will help you feel more in control of the situation. More importantly, it will help protect yourself and your children if you need to flee in a hurry.
- Always keep some money on you.
- Keep important emergency numbers nearby or learn them.
- Teach your children how to phone the emergency services.
- Try to pack an emergency bag for yourself and your children – avoid leaving the bag at a mutual friends house.
These will not change your life overnight. However little changes from all these areas over time, will help. Small steps will lead to freedom.