Recovering from domestic violence is dependent on the extent to which someone was subjected to it, but it also depends upon their coping skills and resilience. The first step towards recovery is often getting out of the relationship. Usually, when a woman leaves an abusive relationship, she is dealing initially with the practicalities of day-to-day living such as housing, finances, her children’s schooling etc. It may take a little time before she is in a place where she can address what has happened to her. In other words, as usual, everything else comes before Mum!
Loss and trauma are difficult things in themselves to overcome, but when dealing with both, it can get complicated. There is usually a sense of loss at the end of any relationship, even a violent one. The following are words said by Bonita* during her counselling, but echoed time and again in a similar fashion by many others:
‘I still love him … I know I shouldn’t, but I do … I miss him … there were some good parts of the relationship … and I think he really did love me’
When women share such words in counselling, it is quite possibly the first time they have been able to admit their feelings without being made to feel bad, mad or sad for it. They feel relieved and somewhat confused when I don’t tell them that they are crazy for their feelings. It is important that women who are left dazed and confused by their experiences are not (further) demonised for these feelings. Their feelings – love as well as anger and hatred towards the perpetrator – are not unusual and can be seen in the survivors of many forms of abuse What is vital for a woman to be able to ‘survive’ is that she is able to unpack these mixed feelings without feeling wrong for having any of them. As family and friends, we usually don’t help this as we cannot understand how she can possibly still have positive feelings towards what we might deem ‘a monster’.
In his book ‘Safe: Your complete guide to domestic violence’, Neville Evans shares an acronym, S.U.P.P.O.R.T, which if implemented, can be of help when contemplating moving on and away from domestic violence, insha Allah. Below is a slight adaptation of it:
Safety Plan – Make one to enable you and your family to get away safely when ready;
Understand it is not your fault;
Preserve any evidence, keep a diary of your experiences or write them down after you leave;
Protect yourself legally by taking advice from criminal and civil solicitors. Apply for restraining or non-molestation orders if necessary;
Organise support from agencies. There are many people out there that can help;
Respect your health and look after it as it will enable you to stay strong;
Talk to someone and express those feelings.
It takes courage, bravery and determination to confront domestic violence and to leave such a relationship. A woman should be commended and supported if she has made the essential step of getting away. Insha Allah, by making this move, she has not only improved her circumstances but she has also benefited future generations of her family, bi’idhnillah. When a woman leaves a violent relationship, she is in turmoil emotionally as well as physically drained and exhausted. She will need her family and friends to be there for her, in support and without blame as more often than not, she will be blaming herself enough for what she and her children have gone through. It is important, much like when recovering from any form of trauma, that a woman gives herself space and time. There is no need to rush. One day at a time.
Nour is here to support a woman through the stages of leaving if that is what she chooses to do. We are also here to facilitate her choice to stay or leave. That is a decision only she can make and she may go through a cycle of leaving and returning several times before finally calling it a day. It is often difficult for those who love and care for her to give her the space she requires to make the decision that she needs and usually wants to make. To tell or force a woman to leave is to be another person in a long line of people that have been telling her what to do, not least of which is the abuser. When a woman makes that choice herself, she is empowered and more likely to work hard at improving her situation. If she is ‘forced’, it is much more likely that she will return to her husband or fall into another violent relationship.
Counselling is a very valuable tool in enabling a victim of any form of abuse to heal themselves and become empowered individuals. Nour continues to provide this service free of charge to their clients but in order to be able to do this they rely heavily on public funding. If you feel able to help by making a monetary contribution – big or small – then do go to their website which is listed below. Please keep Nour, their staff, volunteers, sponsors, supporters and, most importantly, those they aid in your du’as. It is by the Grace of Allah I that they exist and by His mercy and rizq (sustenance) that they continue their much needed work.
(*Name and some details omitted or altered to provide anonymity and maintain confidentiality)
Nour is a registered charity that works within the field of domestic violence. Its aims are to raise awareness and educate about this silent yet prevalent issue that knows no barriers in terms of religion, race, class or status. Nour’s services are open to anyone who has been impacted by domestic violence in some shape or form.