Thursday, 25 October 2012

...when it hurts so bad...

If you’re a woman of a certain age, it’s likely that you’ve had your fair share of relationships.  Hopefully some would have been great, others, ok.  You are also likely to have had some bad ones and some really bad ones.  If you’re that 1 in 4 woman who has experienced domestic violence, then you’ve more than likely had a truly horrifying one. 

I seem to have written my second trilogy here, because I’m writing my third piece to mark domestic violence awareness month. I hope the two pieces I’ve already written have educated and informed you and made you think a bit more about the horror that is domestic violence.

The first thing I’d like to say this week is that not every bad relationship is an abusive one.  I dated a man once whose comments and behaviour made me so paranoid about my body, it was unreal.  So much so, that on one birthday, I locked myself in the bathroom to eat my birthday cake, in order to avoid his comments!  Were his behaviour and comments wrong? Absolutely.  Should I have ditched him? Definitely (which I did in the end).  Was his behaviour abusive? Looking back, I’d say no.  Others may have a different view, but I don’t recollect there being a pattern of coercive control that defines an abusive relationship. And that is what defines an abusive relationship for me.  It also takes me to my second point.

The UK has recently amended its definition of domestic violence.  The new definition is “any incident or pattern of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over, who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality”.  The abuse in question includes psychological, emotional, physical, sexual and financial abuse.  It’s good to see the pattern of coercion and control clearly spelt out, because there are still those who would argue that an incidence of violence is a ‘one-off’ and completely out of character for the perpetrator.  For the women and children who are living with that perpetrator, it is not an isolated incident, but a sustained and prolonged campaign of terror.  So for those who aren’t sure about whether or not they or someone they know is in a domestic violence situation, I’d say look at the pattern of behaviour.  Is the behaviour isolating you from your sources of support? Is the behaviour regulating your everyday behaviour, by causing you to try and avoid anything that might trigger a violent incident? is the behaviour humiliating or intimidating to you?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it is likely that you are in an abusive relationship and you need to get help.

Which in turn, leads neatly to my last point and that is help seeking in a relationship blighted by domestic violence. If you are on the outside looking in, you are likely to be very confused by some of the behaviour of the victim.  You may ask yourself why she doesn’t just leave?  You may ask why does she leave and keep coming back? And finally you may end up concluding that the victim doesn’t really want help.  I read a comment recently where a reader said she just couldn’t feel any pity for a woman who stays in an abusive relationship.  What she and others who feel like her must realise is that living in a domestic violence situation is like living in a nightmarish alternative reality.  One where your major aim is to survive, to stay alive.  If I sound extreme, it’s because many women have been told that if they try to leave/actually leave, they and/or their children will be killed.  I will always remember the words of an incredibly brave woman who said, it was easier to have the abuser at home, because she didn’t have to worry about him popping up out of the blue, which was far more nerve wracking! Also for many women, it’s a triumph of hope over reality.  She wants the violence to stop, so that the relationship can remain.   She wants to believe that this really will be the last time.  This is why expressions of remorse and promises never to do it again, have such an impact on the victim.  Think about how difficult you would find it to walk away from a relationship that you have invested time, emotions and finances in-especially when there are children?

As I end this piece, I reflect on the fact that the stakes in domestic violence are high.  A relationship with Mr Wrong could dent your pride a bit.  A relationship with Mr Abuser could see you battered, bruised or even dead.

If you have been affected by anything in this week’s post, or would like to find out more information, contact us through the website.

Born2bebeautiful is taking a 2 week break until the 15 November.  Until then, go well.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Now he loves me, now he don't

I don’t think there are many people who would go on a first date, get a slap and say “oh good, just the kind of relationship I am looking for, I’ll be back for some more of that!”  Domestic violence is much more insidious than that.  Abusers often appear charming, attentive and even loving at first.  So that when the violence starts, it is often shocking and the tendency is to try and explain it away or for the victim to feel that they are somehow to blame for it.

This week, as it’s still Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’d like to look at some of the warning signs of a violent relationship.  There are more signs than this.  These are just the ones that I have chosen to focus on.

The first sign that I would like to focus on is denial.  When I use the word ‘denial’, I am talking about the instances where the abuser either denies that the abuse ever happened or puts the blame on the victim, saying she caused it. This is one form of psychological abuse that women mention often.  It can make you feel like you’re losing your mind, when a perpetrator either outright denies abuse or says your behaviour caused it.  In the latter situation, if the victim accepts that, she will begin to try and modify her behaviour or change in some other way, in order to avoid further violence.  In reality though, the choice and the decision are not hers to make.  The abuser decides, how, when, what and where he will perpetrate his violence. Taking responsibility for the behaviour often leads to feelings of guilt, shame, fear and hopelessness on the part of the victim, which can eventually lead to a complete breakdown of their self esteem and self confidence.

The next sign is equally damaging to a victim’s psyche and that is the use of destructive criticism, verbal abuse and threats.  Constant name calling, mockery, scorn and other forms of harmful criticism go to the very core of our identity.   As I have said before, the destruction of another human being starts and ends with the dismantling of their self esteem and confidence. Threats to kill the victim, the children or themself.  Threats to harm children and other loved ones.  Threats to use physical violence.  These are sadly a fact of life for the millions of women and children around the world experiencing domestic abuse. 

Finally, I’d like to mention sexual violence.  Rape, forcing you to engage in sexual practices (harmful or otherwise) that you don’t want to and the use of sexual threats or intimidation often plays a huge role in domestic violence situations.  Because of the very intimate nature of this type of abuse, it is often the last thing to be disclosed.  Throw into the mix, the possibility of compromising pictures and the increased use of social media and you can see how sexual violence would be a very effective way of controlling a victim.

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned physical violence in this piece.  That’s not because it’s not a very important sign.  It’s because, physical violence and domestic violence are often seen as being synonymous and I want to use this post to highlight some other warning signs.  The ones that victims often experience, but are the hardest for other people to understand or believe.

A listening ear and a helping hand are two things that victims of domestic violence need and most times don’t get.  Would you know how to help? Would you know where to find out information on domestic violence? This month, take some time to find out more about domestic violence.  You just might be able to save someone’s life.

Affected by anything in this post? Want more information? Contact us through the website.

Until next week, go well.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Back to basics

Imagine if your child came home from school one day and told you that they were no longer going to be taught the ABC- on account of the fact that it had been taught for too long!  You would be a bit peeved I expect. That’s how I feel, when people say we should stop talking about domestic violence, because most people know it’s wrong and there’s no need to keep going on about it.  The fact is that it’s still endemic and women and children across the world are being abused and killed by those who profess to love them!
October is domestic violence awareness month in America and I thought it would be a good time to go back to basics and tackle 3 of the most common myths about domestic violence.
The first myth that I want to highlight is that domestic violence is caused by anger.  This is the most pervasive and dangerous myth out there in my view and it has a catastrophic effect on the safety of women and children.  The fundamental cause of domestic violence is power and control.  If domestic violence were simply about uncontrollable anger, why aren’t the abusers out there, beating up bosses, beating up other drivers on the road or anyone else who makes them angry? Using violence is a deliberate choice by an abuser.  They choose when to use the violence, they choose what ‘offences’ merit violence, they choose how much violence to use, they choose where to use the violence and they choose when to stop the violence.  It in fact the very opposite of uncontrolled anger.  It is calculated and frighteningly random for the victim, because they can never be sure what will trigger an episode of violence.  It destabilises victims and keeps them perpetually off balance, thereby allowing the abuser to maintain their power and control in the relationship.  Stress, alcohol, drugs and mental illness can all exacerbate the violence, by making it more severe, but they are not the root cause.  That’s why anger management courses and treatment for addictions do not stop the violence.
The second myth that I’d like to challenge is that domestic abuse is just a fight between 2 people and that the victim is equally culpable. A fight implies individuals who are more or less evenly matched.  Not many women I know are able to take on a violent man.  They may try to defend themselves, but it’s highly unlikely that they would prevail in a fight.  I am not saying that there are no women who abuse their partners, because there are.  However, in my experience and in the research that I’ve seen, the majority of victims are women and the majority of abusers are men.  Factor in the emotional and sexual abuse that accompanies physical violence and it becomes clear that this is in no way a fight between equals.
Finally, I would like to challenge the myth that domestic violence only happens amongst poor or uneducated people.  Actually research has shown that it is slightly more prevalent amongst professionals.  This myth just serves to stigmatise one group of people, whilst silencing the other.  Abusers come from all walks of life.  White collar lawyers, accountants and judges, abuse just as badly as blue collar plumbers, electricians and taxi drivers.  The effect on their victims is the same: fear, shame and the knowledge that if they report the abuse, they are more than likely to be blamed, for somehow causing the violence.  So they learn to scream quietly, so they don’t disturb the neighbours.  They become adept at masking the outward signs of abuse, so that they don’t offend anyone with their injuries.  Most of all, they learn that they won’t be believed in the face of a charming and plausible abuser.
Although, October is not domestic violence awareness month here, we can still do our bit. Let’s examine our own beliefs about the causes of domestic violence.  Let’s think about how we would respond if we knew that someone was being abused. Let’s pay a little more attention to our sisters and our girlfriends who may be suffering in silence. Let’s play our part in shaping a world that is free from violence against women.
Have you been affected by anything in this week’s piece? Or would you like more information on how to help someone suffering domestic violence? Contact us through the website, for a free and confidential chat.
Until next week, go well.


Thursday, 4 October 2012's perfect...

Did you know that if Barbie were a real woman she would have a 27 inch bust, a teeny 20 inch waist and 29 inch hips.  How realistic is that for a grown woman to aspire to?  And yet thousands of young women spend an inordinate amount of time, money and energy trying to achieve that precise look, because they’ve been told it’s the perfect shape!

Today, I want to talk about perfection and how striving for perfection can sometimes be counter-productive to achieving our dreams.

Although striving for excellence can be a good motivator, striving for perfection can stop us achieving our dreams.  We don’t start or complete things we should be doing because we’re afraid we won’t do them perfectly.  Our thinking is if we can’t do something perfectly, then we don’t want to do it at all! This is something I’m constantly battling with myself over, especially when it comes to trying new things. I keep reminding myself that no-one’s perfect and most times the lessons and the value are in the trying.  Oddly enough, writing a weekly blog is proving very helpful.  When I write the blog, it’s about things that matter to me and so I’m not caught up in trying to be perfect. My focus is on whether my message is coming across as I intended.  I know that the posts may not appeal to everyone, but somehow, that doesn’t seem to matter as much as I thought it would.

Another way that focusing on perfection can hinder us, is that it stops us from making changes that we need to make and causes us to make unhelpful changes in other areas.  These days, airbrushing, photo-shopping and the size zero phenomenon all have a worrying effect on women.  We look at these false images and worry that we could never be that perfect and give up on being as healthy and strong as we could be. Anorexia, bulimia and obesity are opposite ends of the eating spectrum, often rooted in unrealistic expectations concerning women’s bodies.  Although men are also affected by these eating disorders, they affect women disproportionately.  We need to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect body and value ourselves for more than how we look and how much we weigh.

Finally, the pursuit of perfection prevents us from growing and being the best that we can be. It keeps us stuck in a present we are unhappy with, without giving us the tools to claim the future we want.  We yearn constantly for the life we’ll have when we’re perfect and we end up putting our lives on hold.  How many of us are merely marking time until we get the perfect job, the perfect job, the perfect partner or are at the perfect weight?  We need to remind ourselves that time doesn’t stand still, while we strive for any or all of these things. The danger is that we can spend our lives running after these things and achieve them, only to find out that it’s all an illusion and doesn’t satisfy us at all.

What have you been putting off doing until you achieve perfection? Today, in the words of the Nike advert- ‘just do it’.  You may not be very good at it at first, but press on through the discomfort, keep practising and you’ll be surprised at how much better you get.  Always remember that no-one’s perfect and all we can do is our best.

If you’d like to find out how coaching can help you live your best life, contact us through the website.

Until next week, go well.