The Stigma of Abuse
Welcome to our first Dare You Create article, from #ProjectLifeQuality. Dare To Create is your creative corner, where we discuss our topic of the week and you are also provided with a suggestion to take away with you. This will be something designed to encourage and motivate you to explore your thoughts through the use of the arts. I can promise some exciting articles. Look out for this each Tuesday.
This week’s topic is about the stigma of abuse. When we consider how many types of stigma there are embedded within the culture of domestic abuse, it comes as a shock.
Did you know that according to the British Crimes Survey, “domestic abuse affects one in four women and one in six men? It accounts for 16% of all violent crime and has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there are 35 assaults before a victim calls the police).” But why does it take so long to walk away from someone who is this violent, controlling or manipulative? Surely they can just walk out of the door? Many survivors of abuse will tell you that it seems so simple when not in the situation, but if it were that easy, the statistics wouldn’t tell us that abuse leads to the death of two women a week. So what could be causing women to stay with their abuser?
Rather than asking why the abuser’s behaviour is not being questioned, the survivor of domestic abuse is often blamed for the actions of the perpetrator or for not getting out of the situation. A phrase known as victim-blaming, and it is more common than you would expect.
Dare to Create Challenge
Okay, over to the creative bit. Read our Abuse Survivor story underneath. What does it make you feel. Use the attached image underneath this paragraph. I would now like to encourage you to write something – a story, a memory or a poem. Use these four words exactly as they are written, and the image attached. Art can be a great source of healing and communication. We’d love to see what you #DareToCreate. Don’t forget to tag it #PLQ
You can find example on our PLQ Facebook page : Inspiration: Project Life Quality
Inspiration Lies Within The Survivors – A Story on Abuse and Strength
Meet Joanne (not her real name). Joanne experienced blame for the violence within her family home and later, within her marriage.
She’s grown up with intimidation and witnessed abuse. She has not known anything else, and when you’ve known nothing else, it’s very difficult to recognise when you are stepping into another abusive situation, so when the charms of a man made her feel special and his dominance was called love; she followed her hopes. Unfortunately someone who’s been a victim of abuse will often draw the attention of other abusers. It’s therefore very common for an individual to find themselves in an abusive relationship time and time again, unable to break the cycle, especially when those you expect support from add to the confusion. Over to Joanne.
“My experience had to do with religion – what happens when your religious community doesn’t support you. In my case, I got the blame for what happened to me, by my church. It eventually made me leave.”
“They wanted me to make an apology for my experience. Some churches have strict rules about stuff. Many times they read the Bible and think that they should have the authority to control the people and tell them what to do. How to live, etc. I suppose it’s what you call religious abuse.”
“I no longer attend church, but still believe in God. I’ve found it necessary to define my spiritual journey for myself and decide what I actually believe. It made me realise that many of the passages they used to judge me with, were taken out if context, or weren’t even in the Bible in the first place.”
“When you don’t make decisions that align with what the minister believes or other members, you can be left feeling like an outsider in your own community. It’s very lonely to go through this and if your family is religious, will that’s an extra difficulty to deal with. They have this idea about divorce that you are never supposed to get divorced or leave a marriage, and that’s what I did. They blamed me, said I did something sinful and to pray for forgiveness. I also got married without their approval and became a single mother. In many churches, if you’re a single mum they believe you did something wrong and shame you for it. They didn’t like either. I cried so much.”
PLQ – “When did this happen Joanne?”
Joanne – “I experienced this twice in my life. Once when I had my situation and the first time was when my parents split up. That was really hard. I was devastated. At the time, some family members didn’t understand. They blamed Mom. People treated us like they didn’t know us. That’s when I started becoming isolated. I had so much anger inside me. I was angry at my parents, my family, my church, myself. I was 19 and then 23 the second time. It turned, life upsidedown.”
“Spiritual abuse isn’t something that’s talked about a lot, but I imagine if I experienced it, I’m not the only one. Other people from other devoutly religious communities may have gone through this too.”
PLQ – “Would you say that the response the church gave you, delayed you getting help in your situations?”
Joanne – “Absolutely. It made me become very suicidal. You feel bad about what has happened to you and then you have people telling you that you are a bad person, or that make you feel like that. You have no friends, no emotional support, so you start to wonder what you are really here for, and when that happens, if no one can give you a reason, you can feel unimportant. You start to think what if I was never here? It’s that kind of reasoning. Maybe I don’t deserve to be here? What if?, becomes a dangerous question to ask.”
“I think community can be healthy and I’m certainly not bashing anyone who finds strength in their religious community, I just think it’s always good to pay attention to how we feel in those situations.”
It’s through great courage and determination, that Joanne and her mother are now safe. They are still affected by their experiences, but continue to rebuild their lives and identity and are now happy.
Thank you for sharing with us Joanne.
Be the person you want to be.
PLQ Creative Coach and Journalist