This blog is dedicated to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Within this blog, we will explore domestic violence and its effects on mental health, as well as raising awareness and support networks for survivors on their journey of healing.
Understanding domestic violence:
Domestic violence encompasses a range of abusive behaviours used by one partner to gain power and control over another within an intimate relationship. This can be through physical, emotional, financial, psychological or sexual abuse. Domestic abuse tends to take a real toll on one's mental health; the constant fear of stress and trauma can lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other mental health challenges.
In the UK 1 in 5 adults aged 16+ have experienced domestic abuse, and its estimated that 2.4 million adults aged 16+ experienced domestic abuse in the year leading up to March 2022 ( roughly 5% of adults) (ONS., 2022). There is also research to show that globally approximately 1 in 3 women globally have experienced physical pf sexual partner violence in their lifetime(WHO., 2021). These shocking statistics emphasise the urgency of addressing this current issue.
Recognising the Signs:
Changes in Behavior: Be attentive to sudden or noticeable changes in your friend's behaviour, mood, or appearance.
Isolation: It could be a red flag if your friend isolates themselves from friends and family or seems unusually distant.
Unexplained Injuries: Notice any unexplained injuries that don't align with the explanations.
Constant Fear or Anxiety: A person suffering from domestic abuse may exhibit signs of constant fear, anxiety, or hypervigilance.
Controlling Partner: Be aware of signs that their partner is overly controlling, possessive, or aggressive.
How to Help:
Express Concern: Approach your friend with care and express your concern. Use "I" statements to avoid sounding accusatory, such as "I've noticed you seem distant, and I'm worried about you."
Listen Without Judgment: Create a safe space for your friend to talk. Be an empathetic listener and assure them that you are there for support.
Respect Their Choices: Understand that leaving an abusive relationship is a complex and challenging decision. Respect their choices and avoid pushing them into actions they are not ready for.
Provide Information: Share information about local domestic abuse hotlines, shelters, and support groups. Knowledge of available resources can empower them to make informed decisions.
Encourage Professional Help: Suggest seeking professional help from counsellors, therapists, or support groups specialising in domestic abuse.
Safety Planning: Help your friend create a safety plan for moments of crisis. This could include identifying safe places and people to reach out to.
Offer Practical Support: Assist with practical matters, such as finding a safe place to stay, contacting authorities if necessary, or helping with childcare arrangements.
Stay Connected: Maintain regular contact to show that you care and provide ongoing support. Isolation is a common tactic in abusive relationships, so staying connected is crucial.
Report Concerns if Immediate Danger: If you believe your friend is in immediate danger, do not hesitate to contact local authorities.
Breaking the stigma:
One of the most significant challenges surrounding domestic violence is breaking the stigma and breaking the silence. By raising awareness, we can open up conversations and encourage survivors to come forward and begin their journey to healing.
As we commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let's envision a world where women can live free from the threat of violence. A world where mental health is prioritised as an integral part of overall well-being.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let us unite in our commitment to mental health and women's well-being. By raising awareness, fostering empathy, and actively supporting survivors, we contribute to the ongoing journey towards a world free from the shadows of domestic violence. Empower minds, break the chains, and let the voices of survivors be heard.
Office For National Statistics (ONS) (2022). Domestic Abuse in England and Wales Overview - Office for National Statistics. [online] www.ons.gov.uk. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwalesoverview/november2022.
World Health Organization (2021). Violence against women. [online] www.who.int. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/violence-against-women#:~:text=Estimates%20published%20by%20WHO%20indicate.