People say: «My home is my castle.» It cannot be said that those who think so are wrong: it certainly must be so. It’s good, when you come home, not only to feel needed by your loved ones, but also to feel protected from external anxieties and troubles. But what if your own home has become a battlefield? What if you not only cannot be safe there, but are even more threatened than outside?
The concept of «domestic violence» is increasingly popping up in the news agenda. To many, it seems distant, not about them, from some strange and terrible life. In fact, we can talk not only about physical violence (although it is also about it), but also about psychological abuse, which has serious consequences for every person.
Violence occurs in completely different families. Many of them have children, and, unfortunately, such “weather in the house” does not have the best effect on their development. In this article, we want to help you understand what to do if something seems to be wrong with your home, how to overcome the fear of tomorrow and protect both yourself and your children from potential or very real danger.
If you still think that domestic violence is some kind of rarity, which may happen somewhere and with someone, but only in some exceptional families or with marginal strata of society, then we want to dissuade you in it. About 30 — 40% of violent acts are committed in families. At the same time, in 70% of cases, women, children or the elderly become victims.
These data affect the whole world as a whole, and one should not assume that the post-Soviet space is an exception. The number of those who still decide to reach the authorized bodies, submit an application and not pick it up is disappointing. According to sociologists, a very small percentage of women victims of domestic violence go to the police. Unfortunately, a very large number of police officers and judges believe that the best way to solve the problem is to reconcile the conflicting spouses. Reconciliation is certainly an important part of the process — but not when you have been beaten for a long time.
Perhaps the scale of the problem would be somewhat different if the quarrels of adults did not affect children. But ruthless statistics indicate that 78% of minors are beaten or psychologically abused, and only 22% have not experienced it in any form. In addition, children who themselves were not subjected to violence, but observed it, for example, in relation to their mother, become witnesses of violence, and this also entails psychological difficulties. But if a child often simply has nowhere to run, then why do people remain in situations of violence and abuse already in adulthood?
If everything always ended with the fact that the victim of violence understood that she was living with a manipulator, abuser or aggressor, and left him immediately! More often, even women who regularly suffer from beatings tend to blame themselves, hope that everything will change, that it was an exception, or even decide to fix it, save the «kitchen fighter» from himself.
Often the victims of adult violence are the same children from families in which this violence was used. This pattern of behavior is often passed down from generation to generation. A person can build relationships with abusers and manipulators, for example, because from an early age of life there is no example of other, healthy relationships in front of his eyes. And this is not his fault.
Demons inciting on the way
Walking away from a person who is abusive towards you can be hindered not only by your internal patterns of behavior. Even if you clearly see that there is abuse in one form or another in a relationship, circumstances and strong fear can interfere with you, no matter how serious and dangerous this situation may be for you. Let’s face them.
Ex-husband takes child away. The rapist himself may actively use this argument against you. Even if you really are a wonderful mother, mutated facts and blackmail can come into play;
Nobody will believe you. Let’s say you yourself were once a victim of abuse by your father or stepfather as a child. You tried to tell your mother about this, but she either did not believe you, or was just as afraid of the consequences. As a result, now you are also afraid that even those closest to you will not accept your version of what is happening. Unfortunately, people react differently to such news — some may offer to make peace or convince you that you yourself are to blame for what happened;
gaslighting. This is a form of psychological violence, the main task of which is to make a person doubt the adequacy of his perception of the surrounding reality. Unfortunately, those who have been gaslighted in a domestic violence situation (and in any other situation) begin to blame themselves for what is happening, doubt their feelings, and suspect their own mental illness.
The husband will not leave you alone even outside of marriage. This assumption is also quite natural, because being subjected to violence for many years, a person learns to constantly feel the danger. In addition, a partner can actually pursue you and this is hard and scary to resist on your own;
You may experience various hard feelings and shame. Thoughts like “this can’t happen to me”, “I have a very intelligent spouse, everyone loves and respects him at work”, “I myself am to blame for everything”, “the child will not have a father” and much more ;
Inability to build your own life. Sad but true: many women find themselves financially dependent on their husbands. For example, if they got married very early and decided to sacrifice their careers in favor of the family. Housework is also full-fledged work, it is extremely energy-consuming, but not paid. And if you don’t have a financial airbag, getting away from your abuser can seem like a mission impossible.
Where to run…
…to the person against whom violence is used
These are the decisions that you should consider personally for yourself if you want to leave your partner.
- Start looking for such an organization, or if you already know where — contact the crisis center. They are very helpful at all stages — from thinking through strategies and a plan of action to working with any of your feelings and states.
- If possible, look at the situation from the side. Of course, you are in a very scary story and have the right to any feelings. In addition to accepting and acknowledging your own feelings, it is important to assess the risks and weigh each step you are about to take. If possible, keeping calm and a critical look at the partner.
- Break the cycle of violence. “It’s not so bad,” you may decide in periods of calm, “sometimes he is so kind. It’s just hard for him to control himself.» What needs to be learned once and for all is that «honeymoon» is not real abuser behavior. If he raises his hand to you, and then all of a sudden everything becomes fine, very soon the clouds will gather again. Even if your partner’s behavior does not threaten your life now, the situation can worsen at any moment. Your task is to kill in yourself the hope of its correction, no matter how scary it may sound.
- collect evidence. These can be traces of beatings, audio or video recordings of scenes of violence, and so on. You can then contact law enforcement with them. Your confidence that this is the right decision is also important. If possible, it is better not to take this statement later, but to bring the matter to the end.
- Get off the radar. Today, a large amount of information about you can be traced without your participation. Your smartphone can tell more about you than you can: location, incoming and outgoing calls, SMS and correspondence. In addition, the partner may have access to information about expenses on your bank card. Therefore, if you are afraid for security, always keep some money in cash (of course, so that only you yourself know about it), and buy a new mobile phone — not a smartphone, but an ordinary “dialer” without the device tracking function. If possible, this purchase should also be paid for in cash and be your secret.
- You need a plan. Even if there is no way to leave right now, take small steps towards freedom from violence. Set aside small sums of money if possible, look for information about crisis centers, or ask if friends you trust can take you in.
- Assemble a «worry bag». Let there be very little money in it at first, but important documents and essentials — both for you and for the children. It is important that you can «grab and run» at any time. And, of course, such a suitcase must be hidden so that it does not accidentally catch the eye of a partner.
- Find Support. You need to communicate what is happening in your family to at least 3-5 people or organizations. An important point: these should be those who will definitely support you and only strengthen your faith in yourself and in the need to get away from the rapist. It can be not only friends and relatives, but also special organizations to help victims of domestic violence.
- Flee. If the situation threatens your life, you need to hide where you will be safe as soon as possible. These may be relatives or friends whose address is unknown to the perpetrator, or a crisis center. If at the moment you do not have suitable options ready, then it makes sense to start looking for them.
… if you are with a child
Having children complicates the situation, because in this case you need to take care not only about yourself, but also about the children. There are several thoughts, in addition to what we wrote about above.
- Do not doubt the decision to leave. Some believe that if a person is violent towards his wife, then it is not a fact that he will be just as cruel to children. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, the abuser implements the patterns of his behavior with different people. For example, he can turn children against you, convince you that it is you who are to blame for everything that happens. In addition, evidence of domestic violence is a heavy blow to the psyche of the child (as well as any other person).
- Ensure the physical safety of the child. If your kid goes to school or kindergarten, an abusive parent can not only contact him without your knowledge, but in especially difficult cases, kidnap him for the purpose of manipulation. It will be better if you come up with a safety plan for your children.
- Talk to your child. Explain to him in an accessible form what exactly is happening and what is your plan of action. Let him know that domestic violence is unacceptable under any circumstances and that you are doing your best to regulate the situation. And that he personally is not to blame for anything, no matter what, for example, dad says.
Today, many community organizations offer help to victims of domestic violence. How to understand which one is better to choose? Obviously, it is better to immediately reject those services that will devalue your experience, convince you of the need to reconcile with your partner “for the good” of family well-being or children.
It is important to know if the center has a shelter for victims of violence, qualified psychologists and lawyers. You can also get support through specialized helplines.
Helpline «Sisters»: +7 499 9010201
All-Russian helpline «Anna» for women victims of domestic violence: 8 (800) 7000 600
Helpline of the Moscow Service for Psychological Assistance to the Population: +7495 051
All phones are free and anonymous.