With October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s critical to bring the reality of abuse determinants to the forefront of this conversation. Through this blog, The M3ND Project shares about different kinds of abuse and how we can detect and respond to each one. We seek to empower, equip and restore those impacted by abuse and those who interface with them. But we are also committed to addressing the cycle of abuse and the factors that allow it to perpetuate in homes, schools, workplaces, and churches. With a clear understanding of what fosters abusive behaviors, we can effectively end the cycles of abuse and the damage it causes to families and communities. Below are some ways you can bring about change and help end domestic violence:
Create A Safe Place to Talk About Abuse
The best way to create communities that are safe places for people to talk openly about abuse is by starting with yourself. Encourage dialogue. Understand the prevalence of abuse in your community.To become a safe place for anyone impacted by abuse, do you part to learn more about it. Listen to the stories of what survivors face within and after the abusive relationship. Believe them. Read about the factors that contribute to domestic violence. Check your internal hesitations and prejudices, and refuse to let them get in the way of a helpful response. Trust that you can make a difference and learn how to respond and maintain compassion for all who are impacted by abuse. When our communities become safe places to talk about abuse, we will be able to drive away the ignorance that keeps it in the shadows.
Counseling is a highly encouraged precursor to entering relationships for those who grew up being abused or witnessed an abusive relationship. Therapy can help victims process and resolve direct or vicarious trauma they experienced in the home. It can help you to correct inaccurate assumptions about healthy relationship dynamics and teach you healthy thinking patterns and behaviors to implement in your life. Even those who do not feel they were traumatized by their experiences can benefit from good therapy as a way to process the effects of what they have gone through.
There can be many reasons to process life with the help of a qualified therapist without a negative stigma attached to it. Should someone ever come to you to disclose their abuse experience, it is wise to encourage the victim to also speak to a counselor who is specially trained in treating the type of abuse they experienced. Although friends and family play a critically important role in the victim’s healing journey, a therapist can equip them in unique ways and with different tools than their friends or family usually can.
Model Healthy Relationships
Parents, teachers, faith-based leaders and any individual who influences a group of people or their children have a responsibility to model healthy relationships. Authority figures carry significant power and influence on others with respect to what behavior or treatment is appropriateWhen these individuals treat others badly they embolden an abuser’s faulty thinking through their example.
This is why it’s crucial for adults to embrace a continued path of learning relational skills, not merely for romantic relationships, but all types of relationships. Communication and love are skills to be honed over time. Those who grew up in healthy homes tend to have an advantage in these areas, but there is always more to learn. Seek out helpful books, movies, podcasts, and learned individuals to glean from and to further develop your interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
Consent and Body Autonomy
Although society has made considerable strides in this area, our culture remains undergirded by long-held messages that is anti-consent. For instance, many children grow up with the pressure or expectation to engage in sexual activity by a certain age or risk being shamed if they have not. This idea has led many young people to make decisions about sexual relationships far earlier than they normally would and often before they are ready. We do not need to be swept up by this negative societal trend, but can instead assert our power against it by instilling lessons about consent and freedom to wait on sex beginning at an early age.
It’s important to teach children that they have body autonomy and so do the people around them. We can demonstrate this point by instructing them to seek permission first before hugging as well as other physical contact. Additionally, regularly communicate that they do not have to show their body to anyone, and that they have every right to distance themselves or ask a trusted adult for help. By instilling these boundaries during the developmental stage, we empower children into their adulthood to trust their gut and avoid unsafe settings or harmful relationships.
To this end, we encourage parents to destigmatize conversations about the body and sex with their children as much as possible so that they can instill a sense of confidence about setting firm boundaries. In the terrible event that someone physically abuses them, children will feel more comfortable coming to mom or dad to disclose the experience without feelings of blame. In addition to regularly reminding children that they have body autonomy, it’s helpful to practice with children regarding strong ways to use their voice confidently. The more familiar a child becomes with using their voice the more equipped they will be when they need to initiate it. Parents can make this easier by demonstrating to the child that they will not leave their children alone with any adults they do not know well or trust, even a doctor. Sadly, abuse most often comes from people we know therefore the more you speak openly about ways your child may be manipulated and provide them with strong ways to respond without feeling shame the more you will help them develop a strong sense of self respect.
One of the most poignant points of change in stopping the abuse cycle is self-improvement and those around you witnessing how your life and relationships positively benefit from you changing. Although these are not all of the ways we can help end the abuse cycle, these touch on some of the most important spheres of where abuse prevention begins. If you are interested in learning more about abuse prevention and response, we encourage you to sign up for our upcoming Introductory Training regarding Covert Emotional Abuse and Double Abuse® where you will hear from our Founder, Annette Oltmans, and our team about how to address and end these forms of abuse.
Sign up here for the 10/28-10/29 Training being held from 5-6:30 p.m. PST each day: https://lfm.pub/34RkVgd