Violence At Home
The term domestic violence is usually associated with intimate partner violence. However, it is really a more general concept that deals with violence occurring within immediate families. The predominate focus on intimate partners as abusers rather than relatives alludes to the stigma associated with speaking up about abuse perpetrated by parents, siblings, etc. The truth is the subject is taboo. As one agency asserted, “all families love, support and protect.” Adult survivors of childhood DV know that is not an absolute truth. Yet, any statement to the contrary creates a deep sense of cognitive dissonance. The world feels safer for everyone when the abuser is someone the victim chose to invite into their lives. Accepting an adult victim’s account of childhood abuse challenges most people’s fundamental world view, creating deep seeded unrest. However, victims of domestic violence are not responsible for preserving illusions about family relationships.
Survivors are forced to live with the cold, hard reality of human pathology. Anyone, regardless of personality or predisposition can become a parent. As a result, any family can perpetrate violence. As a person of faith I remember the dissonance I experienced as a preteen trying to reconcile the concept of honoring someone with the reality of being subjected to continuous harm by that individual. The only way I could reason through the expectation was to emotionally distance my lived experience with the person from their title. Social pressure required that I ignore my reality to make others comfortable. That pressure and in some cases continued abuse into adulthood leaves survivors with the difficulty of managing continuous stress and trauma.
It is very important that adult survivors of family violence remain grounded in their experiences. Before processing the abuse survivors must give themselves permission to be honest irrespective of others’ anticipated reactions. The survivor’s experience is her or his own, period. This act of anchoring in lived truth is essential to processing and recovering from trauma caused by domestic violence. Once survivors voice their experience they could face victim shaming, blaming and disbelief. Those who are more malicious may join in gaslighting and defaming the survivor. Their actions are not about the survivor but more a reflection of the cognitive dissonance associated with the reality of violence in families. People are troubled by hearing about DV trouble. They attempt to alleviate their discomfort by denying survivor truth. Survivors who resign themselves to an unwavering commitment to their lived experiences open the door to individual healing and societal transformation.