If you have experienced domestic violence firsthand, you know that it is an indescribable, unimaginable trauma to endure. But it is important to acknowledge it is not your fault. I always stress that there is no excuse or justification for domestic violence, at any time or in any place. The lasting psychological effects of domestic violence are significant; however, there are three steps I strongly encourage you to take if you are being physically abused.
1. Face the grieving process
Going through this very difficult time, or helping someone else through it, is not unlike dealing with grief and bereavement. It is similarly tragic, with accompanying feelings of loss. At this point, you or your loved one has hopefully come to the end of the abuse and begun the grieving process. Safety first: the physical removal from the situation is crucial; dealing with the psychological aftermath directly follows. This is a permanent life change that involves a painful separation from your abuser.
2. Reach out
It’s important to remember that it takes time to heal and every individual responds differently in this type of situation. While your loved one may ask for help, you may choose to handle your pain privately. Coping with this change and coping effectively with grief in general, however, is vital to your mental health. Reaching out to someone, whether a family member or friend, can be extremely helpful in enabling you to deal with the pain and avoid isolating yourself. If someone you know has suffered or is suffering from domestic violence, lend support by simply being there for them.
3. Seek professional help
If you or your loved one do not feel comfortable approaching a close family member or friend, or if you feel you need additional help that is more objective and professional, I highly recommend speaking with a counsellor through your Employee or Student Assistance Program. Never feel ashamed for seeking help—especially for your mental and psychological well-being. Focusing on your grief, in fact, is often necessary in the healing process.
National Day of Remembrance
December 6th is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. Thirty years ago, a tragic mass shooting at l’École Polytechnique de Montréal led to the murder of 14 young women on campus. The Canadian government now aims to commemorate this event by sharing troublesome statistics that women, girls and LGBTQ individuals across the country continue to face violence on a daily basis.
The lasting effects
The lasting negative effects of violence on women, girls and LGBTQ may relate to physical, sexual, and reproductive health. Victims of such trauma may experience serious anxiety and depression that impacts their ability to work, socialize, and generally interact with others. Whether at home, school, or in employment situations, victims could have a very difficult time in their day-to-day lives.
Remember, if you or a loved one need support, grief and bereavement counselling options are available through your Employee or Student Assistance Program. There is nothing more important than your mental and physical well-being.