Abuse has long-term effects

In a recent blog post we talked about the emotional and psychological impact of abuse on survivors. We mentioned that it is a long-term effect that continues well after separation. Studies show that these are not the only long-term effects of abuse endured by victims.

The majority of survivors (63%) experienced continuing violence from their former partner after separation. We are also often told by survivors that they are still manipulated and controlled by their former partner in matters such as finance and the shared parenting arrangements and the necessary negotiations involved with them. They are still the subject of innuendo and gossip from their former partner who often continue to promote excuses that blame the victim for the failure of their marriage. These excuses are made with skilled deception and often the survivors friends and family never really understand or believe that domestic abuse is the true reason for the marriage failure. The survivor who is vocal about the abuse sometimes is said to be exaggerating, lying or mentally unhinged. Whilst it is possible the psychological effects of the abuse continue, we have heard these accusations made against survivors who are quite cogent, have good insight into their own behaviours and the abuse and who are not showing signs of mental illness any more than the stress of separation would bring to many of us.

The majority of survivors experienced disruption to their work life with more than 75% not continuing in the same workplace following separation. To this we would add that similar disruption to a victim’s sense of spiritual family is common. We do not have statistics, but it is quite common that survivors are forced to changed ecclesias as a result. The reasons for these disruptions are sometimes logistics - if you have moved house, or even moved state or country it usually follows that you have to move workplace and change ecclesia. But sometimes it is because the abuser has made such a disruption in the workplace or the ecclesia that there is a need to move away. Further, another common long-term effect identified in long-term studies of survivors is that often survivors are averse to conflict and will move workplaces more frequently because of it, and probably move ecclesias if there is any sense of conflict in their first ecclesia. This conflict may be from having to keep meeting in the same place as the abuser - another reason for the ecclesia to ensure this isn’t a barrier, or having to meet friends or enablers of the abuser or others who know the situation but blame the victim.

One third of survivors depended on family and friends for immediate accommodation. This is an important reason for ecclesial intervention and an important matter for ecclesias to keep a priority. By engaging with the survivor and the abuser, including where the survivor needs it, helping the survivor to obtain intervention orders to keep the abuser away from them, the ecclesia can make it a requirement that it is the alleged abuser who moves out of the home whilst the ecclesia is helping the survivor and the abuser work through their plans for the future. In this way the survivor and probably children, do not have to suffer this substantial disruption to their life. Further, it is usually easier to support the accommodation needs of a single man than a woman and her children (as is usually the case). Of course each case is different and the relevant knowledge about each case must be applied to each such decision.

Almost half of participants received a diagnosis of mental illness either during or after the violence. In our last post we addressed this in part, but ecclesias need to be conscious that survivors (and victims) have a high likelihood that they are suffering a mental illness and support them with that in mind. This might include supporting them to get medical help to get well, as well as being understanding of the impact that illness may have on their life and abilities.

All forms of social activity by all survivors decreased significantly during exposure to violence. This finding is important for us to recognise when considering situations that might appear to be a marriage problem, or even just a member of the ecclesia who is not attending, or not engaged with the ecclesia’s activities. We can be on the lookout for other signs of emotional abuse, for instance, including checking up that the person does not feel fear and that there is a healthy Christ-like care for them by their partner, for instance. Further, whilst encouraging them to engage in ecclesial activities when they are ready is clearly worthwhile and likely to be helpful to restoring their confidence, we should be careful not to place undue pressure on them to do this.

The data for this blog comes from a report on ‘Gendered Violence and Citizenship’.

If this article raises concerns you have about domestic violence in your own life or those around you can call 1800RESPECT (If in Australia) or similar services in other countries. There is also a list of support services on this website including Christadelphian Support Services.

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