How to Support the victims of Domestic Abuse?

There are more than 10 million domestic violence and abuse victims each year – by the time you finish the sentence, at least one woman has been assaulted. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that domestic violence is a plague that knows no bounds.  Physical abuse is prevalent in all demographics, from those below the poverty line to the million-dollar faces we all adore.

And while domestic violence has no racial or economic bounds, according to VeryWell, research seems to show that black women are most likely to experience domestic violence, followed by Hispanics and then whites, with Asians the least likely to endure domestic violence. And while black and Hispanic women have been shown to be more likely to report domestic violence, those who fear deportation might be less likely to report their abuser. Making a horrendous situation even worse.

Every day, however, there are plenty of women who are able to free themselves from domestic abuse. But it doesn’t end there. Women of domestic violence often experience symptoms of trauma long after escape. They need a loving, supportive, and understanding network to help them regain their confidence. Understandably, it’s difficult to know what to say or do to help a loved one circumvent further crisis after ending an abusive relationship. Here are a few things you can do to help a woman during her transition from victim to victor.

Lend a listening ear. Having the opportunity to talk about the situation to a non-threatening and sympathetic friend is cathartic. Sometimes, the abused may not be fully convinced of the gravity of their former situation and may need to hear themselves say it out loud. Listen attentively, but don’t push for details. She will open up in her own time.

Help her find a qualified therapist. As much as you can listen, your friend will need much more emotional support than you can provide. Help her find a therapist who is experienced in helping people heal after an abusive relationship. In addition to individual therapy, you can point her in the direction of local support groups, where she can discuss her situation with others in the same boat. This is all the more important if substance abuse is a factor (as it often is in these situations). This may help her realize that she is not alone and overcome lingering feelings of guilt or grief that she associates with the relationship. Mental Health America offers a list of specialized support groups on its website.

Be specific in your offers of help. Your friend may not know what she needs as her mind is still swimming with fear and apprehension. Avoid vague statements such as, “Call me if you need anything.” Instead, pay attention to her environment and social or verbal cues. If she has children, you might, for instance, offer to take the kids out for ice cream so that she can have a moment alone. Set up a schedule with other close friends and family that know about the situation to provide meals and transportation.

Encourage her to pursue her passions. Lots women find comfort in their hobbies. And since many victims of domestic violence are denied any form of happiness by their abuser, it is more important now than ever that your friend do something strictly for herself. Drawing, painting, and other forms of self-expression may help her refocus her priorities while offering a temporary respite from her emotional anguish.

Provide her with alternative therapy options. The National Center for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder reports that acupuncture, meditation, and relaxation exercises are viable ways to supplement trauma recover. Animal therapy is another proven technique to overcome depression, which is often triggered by domestic violence. Dogs are especially effective companions for women who may not be quite ready to talk about their experiences but need comfort and unconditional love. Health Fitness Revolution magazine asserts that having access to a service animal can provide anxiety relief, encourage communication, and has a number of overall positive psychological benefits.

Don’t insist that she start dating. Domestic violence leaves an emotional scar that can make it difficult for victims to open their hearts once again. Avoid the temptation to set your finally-free friend up; she will begin dating in her own time. Codependency and domestic violence often go hand-in-hand, according to Darlene Lancer, a marriage and family therapist and author of Conquering Shame and Codependency. You should encourage her to learn how to depend on herself before pursuing new love interests.

In conclusion, the most important things you can do for a victim of domestic violence is be there for support and help her explore this new chapter in her life.

 The article has been contributed by Nora Hood. She can be contacted via her email nora@threedaily.org 

 

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The Victims of Pakistan’s Acid Attacks

Yesterday, The New York Times published an opinion article by Nicholas Kristof, which highlighted the plight of thousands of women in Pakistan who become victims of the acid attacks far and wide in the country. These poor women become the victims of patriarchy, societal norms as their lives, relationships, family and above all their ‘being’ is neglected, denied, deprived and even sacrificed on the name of ‘honour’.

Being a woman in a patriarchal society is an unimaginable life. You are reduced to nothingness. You do not hold any feelings, emotions or any respect. Your existence is no longer an existence. It’s something there, open to abuse, violence and sometimes murder. A life some argue, is worse than a death.

Global Minorities Alliance urges Pakistan government to implement laws with action to help thousands of women who become victims of this barbarous acts of violence by men. There is indeed no ‘honour’ in killing.

The ‘Saving Face’ a documentary which has highlighted the plight of these women who go through excruciating pain both at familial, societal and legal level to get justice. However, not everyone get justice. The fight for rights of women go on.

To watch the documentary on the acid victims of Pakistan click here: ‘Saving Face

Sharing Voices – Part II

Interviews about rights of women in Egypt – Hopes and Aspirations

Nadia

Nadia Siraj – Interviewee

Following the previous post about Maryam few weeks ago here is my II part of the series. 

Nadia Siraj (44, Cairo) was born in Saudi Arabia. She has lived half of her life in Saudi Arabia and half in Egypt. She has worked as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expert for corporations such as the National Commercial Bank in Jada, Microsoft, British Consulate or Islamic Development Bank as well as in the Social Field in several countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Dubai. At some point, she decided to leave corporate and focus more on Meditation and Energy, which had always been her passion. She believes in the importance of empowering people regardless of any condition, thereby making people being themselves. Nadia loves self-expression through body (dancing and music). She is co-founder of a centre that promotes meditation through dancing in order to make people to find their own serenity.

Maryam and Nadia stories make you clearly see some aspects that negatively affect women. In their opinion, the increasing influence of wrong religious interpretations, tradition and even Capitalism (‘is the other extreme of treating a woman like an object and making her feel she is unworthy without having certain looks, buying certain products, etc.’) make women to be more exposed to harassment, to be forced to wear veil, to get married at certain age or being restricted of choices and submissive on relationships. This process has especially been strengthen since late 70’s, ‘when wahabi culture started being imported to Egypt’.

Nevertheless, Maryam and Nadia believe ‘women are awaking’. Women are becoming conscious about their situation. Rather, as Nadia notices, there is raising ‘a strong reaction reflected by feminism movements’, although, in her opinion, another positive respond to fight for equality could have been developed instead of a movement based on ‘frustration and opposition’.

Since the fall of Mubarak’s regime (February 2011), Nadia believes that the ‘revolution’ worked for something and the fall of Mubarak’s regime ‘broke something old’ so it triggered a process ‘in which people realize that there are other options in life’.

On the other hand Nadia  considers that ‘ her divorce was one of the big turning points in her life because she realized that all people, who interfered in her life and were so keen on finding ways to control her. They are not there anymore or they are only there when it requires control. She said, she started questioning many of the values and beliefs in which she had been raised and then she disregarded many of them without being reactive, because being reactive will make things worse’. She is instilling it to her son and her parents start ‘to see things differently when it comes to raising girls different from boys and controlling them more than boys. ‘It’s a learning process for all of us we are breaking cycles of unnecessary controlling and being controlled’ she said.

Nadia highlights her younger period in Saudi Arabia, where it was very difficult for a woman to have a job. More recently, she remembers the harsh period she spent because of her son’s custody: ‘I have suffered dealing with separation, and the law stands always on the side of the man more than a woman’ For Nadia it was even difficult to being with being divorced with a son.

Hence, when I asked Nadia about the role of men in women’s situation, she said: ‘there were successful women who were supported by their fathers, their husbands, their brothers, etc. I was lucky to be one of them in certain aspects of my life where my father was there to give me support. Nevertheless, it is not the case anymore because there is much competition and people are so busy with their own stories so a lot of women have to empower themselves by finding their ways’.

Talking about younger women Maryam and Nadia agree on the fact that there is a certain polarity or contrast, but at different levels. Nadia observed that new generations face ‘resistance from the elders, who cannot accept that the whole area of security (everything that they believe in and keeps them alive) is being shacked. They don’t want that. They want to hold on to what they know and believe, so the younger generations are challenging the older ones and only those of them (the young ones) who get stuck in the ego and self-victimization are not able to move on and adopt change’.

Thus, looking at the future like Maryam, Nadia has a lot of hope. She sees ‘more respect from young men and they are more in touch with their feminine side; whereas many women are standing for themselves, for their rights and being more confident’. However, she points out the way Middle East societies are viewed, especially from Western countries. First, ‘they are always focused on books and conferences. It is always focused on driving, entrepreneurs, etc. and it is not focused more on based wise on women’s need. Whatever they look at, it is more in favour of consumerism at the end; so entities that promote independence in these aspects make women independent only financially, thereby making more consumers as equal as men’. Thus, she doesn’t see this independence ‘as a genuine step in really being concern on women’. Secondly, she saw many women from different countries (Dubai, Morocco, UK, Iran, Turkey, US) who had their own issues. They ‘are not equally treated as men, not equally paid as men, emotionally or physically abused by men’. Hence, she doesn’t like the idea of ‘spotlighting Middle East as an area where women are oppressed and it doesn’t happen anywhere else’.

She told me that ‘it is happening everywhere in different ways’.

Javier Javier Milán López (27, Spain) graduated in Political Science and Public Administration and specialized in International Cooperation, Project Management and Development Processes. He has been involved in activist movements as well as getting involved into Social Field through volunteering. He has worked for NGOs at national and international level (Spain, Senegal and Egypt) as project manager assistant and consultant/facilitator. Currently, he is doing a European Volunteering Service in Romania. Milán López (27, Spain) graduated in Political Science and Public Administration and specialized in International Cooperation, Project Management and Development Processes. He has been involved in activist movements as well as getting involved into Social Field through volunteering. He has worked for NGOs at national and international level (Spain, Senegal and Egypt) as project manager assistant and consultant/facilitator. Currently, he is doing a European Volunteering Service in Romania.