Domestic violence unfortunately remains very prevalent in today’s society. Every year, it affects as many as one in four women in the US. Women who are victims of domestic violence can find it difficult to navigate through the psychological and physical traces of the abuse. Thus, it is absolutely crucial to find ways that can help empower said individuals. As stated in our post ‘Empowerment What Is It?’, we firmly believe that domestic violence survivors have the capacity to heal from their own pain. However, external support is necessary so they can become successful in their path to recovery.
So on that note, this article will provide an in-depth look at how domestic abuse survivors can overcome their trauma by processing negative emotions through therapy, as well as seeking legal justice.
Therapy has the immutable ability to help individuals process their emotions in a safe and healthy manner. For domestic violence survivors, it’s understandable that the experience could leave them with self-concept-related hardships and mental health problems. One such difficulty can come in the form of frequent depressive symptoms. Often, these can cause individuals to feel dispirited or detached from themselves or their loved ones. These can also lead survivors into thinking they “deserve” the abusive treatment they experienced. Fortunately, findings from a Frontiers study on domestic violence explains that medical treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can eliminate these thoughts.
CBT focuses on supporting survivors as they learn to identify unhealthy behaviors, thoughts, and actions. For instance, if a victim earns less than their spouse, this can distort their thoughts and push them to accept the abuse. Recognizing these patterns is necessary to empower victims and break the cycle of abuse.
Now, while CBT can address unhealthy behaviors, victims may still require additional grief counseling if, for example, they’re contending with the death of their abuser. A feature on grief counseling by Maryville University explains that feelings of anger are natural after a loss. The trauma that survivors have suffered at the hands of their abuser doesn’t exempt them from being disoriented about the death. That being said, grief counseling combines meditation practices and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) so survivors can better untangle complicated feelings and work towards accepting them. In doing so, these individuals can refocus on moving forward and pursuing future happiness.
Seeking legal justice is imperative in empowering domestic abuse survivors. Instances of violence should be reported to the police. Law enforcement will then file a report, sparking the beginning of the legal process. Currently, several laws in the country are geared to connect survivors with the tools they need to overcome the abuse. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, for example, offers comprehensive services that enable survivors to get back on their feet and reclaim the situation. Apart from charge-free prosecution or civil protection orders (such as restraining orders against abusers), survivors are also provided with legal aid.
There are many ways legal systems are increasing survivor safety and guarding survivor privacy. Courts in California, for instance, are applying a new legal tool to improve outcomes for individuals who experienced domestic abuse. A coercive control law allows survivors to cite psychological abuse as the basis for their legal action. Expanding the scope of what constitutes domestic violence means that more survivors can be empowered to come forward and pursue justice.
Additionally, a 2021 Urban Institute report titled ‘An Evaluation of a Workforce Development Program for Domestic Violence Survivors’ shared that legal systems are coordinating better responses with local programs to support survivors. For example, legal advocates in Pennsylvania are not only tasked with accompanying survivors to in-person court meetings and offering support, they also make referrals to agencies outside the court to connect survivors to therapists or healthcare services. By doing so, survivors can be equipped with more resources as they rebuild their lives and achieve healing.
Domestic violence is not an isolated experience, nor should it be dealt with alone. It’s important that external support— seen in the likes of medical treatments and legal services— is available for survivors so they can become fully empowered and likewise guide other victims into overcoming their trauma.
written for SheroesUnited.org
by Reed June