PTSD Survivors Speak: Arming Yourself Against Domestic Violence, Part 2
Posted Oct 27 2010 6:34am
We conclude Domestic Violence Awareness Month with the last in Cornelia’s series about Domestic Violence, and how to overcome it. In part 1 and part 2 Cornelia gave us ways to recover from domestic violence. Last week, Cornelia started giving us ways to separate and heal from violent relationships. This week we are given more ways to arm ourselves against domestic violence. The important thing is to recognize you are in a violent relationship and to get help! You are not alone.
Arming Yourself Against Domestic Violence
The ladies from “Women in Crisis” from Guelph Wellington get to the point:
Women are often told not to walk alone, not to go to certain places, not to dress in certain ways. These things do not prevent … assault but do limit women’s freedom and equality. Some good alternatives are:
Of course, it’s very important for survivors to keep away from therapists who blame them, bully them, verbally abuse them, guilt trip them and generally don’t respect, support, encourage, understand and validate them.
Ellen Bass and Laura Davis also recommend survivors to keep away from therapists who blame them and who don’t respect them:
“If you don’t feel respected, valued or understood or if your experience is being minimized or distorted, that’s a sign that you are in bad therapy or at least that there’s a bad fit between you and the counselor. If you feel there is something wrong in the therapy relationship or if you get upset or angry with your counselor, talk about it in your session. Afterward, you should feel you have been heard and understood. However, if your counselor discounts your feelings or reacts defensively, then you are not getting the respect you need. Look elsewhere.
If a counselor ever wants to have a sexual relationship with you, get out right away. Report the therapist to the appropriate licensing board. If you have had a bad or abusive experience with a counselor, you have a right to be angry.”
Ginny Ni Carthy highlights also the risks of secondary victimization at the hands of sexist counselors:
“Insist on respect. Among other things, that means sexist attitudes are not acceptable. Counselors who accept traditional sex stereotypes can have a powerful and damaging effect, especially on women. A woman may have just begun to gain a sense of what she wants from life, to make independent judgments or to exercise her rights when she sees a counselor for the first time. If the counselor defines the woman’s role for her in a narrow way, the woman may decide she was „crazy“ to think she could be independent or make her own decisions.
You will experience special problems if you contract for the services of a sexist therapist. He or she is likely to reinforce your self-blame. If you are already blaming yourself for the abuse, it may not take much for your guilt feelings to lead you right back to your man. Sexist therapists often ask battered women: “What did you do to provoke him?” and imply that it’s the woman’s responsibility to change, so that the man won’t have a ‘reason’ to beat her up again.”
Security is vital for stabilization and healing and separating the past from the present. The same is true for living a freer and happier life and not being subjected to conditions that are detrimental to dignity and well-being any more.
The knowledge that improving the situation and quality of life for women to a great extent and in the long run and doing away with still existing grievances takes not only personal efforts and psychosocial assistance but also adequate political and societal measures is particularly relevant for change. Quoting Professor Alexa Franke:
“Comparing life with a river, at times therapy is not about giving a woman another swimming course but altering the conditions and the way the river runs.“ (Alexa Franke / Annual Report 2005 / www.wildwasserwuerzburg.de ) (Translation by author.)
Of course, this is a basic premise. It takes both psychosocial support and politically standing up for women’s equal rights and freedom in order to remedy the grievances … It’s just as relevant for the survivors to be aware that they need no longer put up with violations of their boundaries. They need to know their rights and options and how to get support. Being safe from further abuse, duress and torments is a crucial precondition for feeling better and for healing.
Cornelia is happy to have come free from a patriarchal, authoritarian-conservative and very abusive subculture where there was a lot of domestic violence and victim blaming. A translator and political scientist, she also has professional experience as an office employee. She has a PhD in Improvements in Stopping Violence Against Women and has helped with the elaboration of the new law against domestic violence in Kosovo. Cornelia finds feminist therapy very helpful. www.myspace.com/feministladycornelia
The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’contact Michele.