Surviving Domestic Violence: How to Heal from Trauma

According to a National Family Health Survey (2019-2021), many women in India experience domestic violence. It revealed that nearly 30 percent of married women in India aged between 18 and 49 have experienced domestic or sexual violence. Scars may fade from the body but wounds on the mind can last a long time. People can end up with emotional and psychological trauma, but there are tips for healing from the trauma of domestic violence.

Health Shots consulted psychotherapist and life and business coach Dr Chandni Tugnait to understand how they can heal survivors of domestic violence.

Domestic violence
Victims of domestic violence can be happy. Image courtesy; Shutterstock

The challenges facing victims of domestic violence

One of the most immediate challenges facing survivors of domestic violence is the physical harm inflicted by their abusers. Survivors often suffer from bruises, fractures, internal injuries and other physical ailments. Dr. Tugnait says these injuries require medical attention or can lead to long-term health complications. Additionally, survivors may experience sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, and chronic pain as a result of the abuse. Other challenges include:

1. Emotional and psychological trauma

Victims of domestic violence often face intense fear, anxiety, and PTSD. The constant cycle of abuse, characterized by manipulation, threats and humiliation, leaves survivors feeling helpless and trapped. Emotional scars or trauma can even lead to depression, low self-esteem, and a higher risk of developing mental disorders.

2. Financial dependence and economic instability

Many survivors face significant financial challenges as a result of their abusive relationships. Abusers often control family finances, leaving survivors financially dependent and without resources to escape the abusive situation. Financial constraints can prevent survivors from seeking legal assistance, securing safe housing, or accessing essential resources such as treatment and medical care. This economic instability can further hinder their way of rebuilding their lives independently.

3. Isolation and lack of support

Domestic violence often isolates survivors from their support networks, leaving them alone and cut off from family and friends. Abusers use manipulation and control tactics to sever social connections, making it difficult for survivors to seek help or disclose abuse. The absence of a strong support system makes feelings of loneliness worse. It can lead to a sense of hopelessness, making it harder for survivors to break free from the cycle of abuse, notes the expert.

Tips for healing from the trauma of domestic violence

Recovering from domestic abuse can be a challenging journey. It requires a compassionate and empathetic approach along with practical strategies, says Dr. Tugnait. You can always seek professional help, but there are other helpful ways as well.

1. Practice self-care

Engaging in self-care activities is essential for survivors to prioritize their well-being and rebuild their lives. Whether it’s practicing yoga, indulging in a favorite hobby, spending time in nature, or just taking quiet moments, self-care practices can nourish the mind, body, and soul. Survivors can gradually find happiness in simple pleasures by investing time and energy in activities that bring them joy and fulfillment.

2. Build a support system

Building a strong support system is vital for survivors as they embark on their healing journey. Connecting with friends, family, or support groups who understand and validate their experiences can provide a much-needed sense of community and belonging. Sharing stories, seeking advice, and offering support to others can foster resilience, combat feelings of isolation, and create a network of empathy and understanding.

3. Learn to forgive

Forgiveness, both for yourself and for others, is a powerful healing tool, says Dr. Tugnait. Domestic violence survivors need to free themselves from the burden of past mistakes or hurtful actions. Holding onto anger and resentment can hinder personal growth and happiness. Cultivating forgiveness allows survivors to let go of negative emotions, reclaim their power, and create space for healing and new beginnings.

4. Set boundaries

Establishing healthy boundaries is important for rebuilding life after domestic violence. By clearly defining acceptable and unacceptable in relationships, survivors regain control of their lives and ensure their well-being. Setting boundaries helps create a safe environment and healthy relationships that are built on mutual respect, trust and understanding.

5. Learn to trust again

Domestic violence survivors often struggle with trust issues as a result of the betrayal they have experienced. Learning to trust again takes time and practice, but it’s possible. It involves gradually opening up to trusted people, seeking professional guidance to address underlying trust issues, and allowing yourself to believe in the goodness of others. By taking small steps toward trust, survivors can rebuild their ability to form healthy connections and experience happiness in relationships.

6. Indulge in the expressive arts

Engaging in expressive arts such as painting, sculpting, or writing can provide survivors with a creative outlet for self-expression and emotional release. Encouraging them to explore their artistic side, experimenting with different mediums, and using art as a form of therapy can bring immense happiness.

Domestic violence
Domestic violence also affects your mental health, so do things that make you happy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

7. Spend time outdoors

Connecting with nature can be a transformative experience for survivors. Encouraging them to spend time outdoors, whether it’s taking a walk in a park, hiking in the mountains or just sitting by the sea, allows them to find peace again.

8. Focus on gratitude

Shifting your mindset towards gratitude can be a great way to find happiness. Even in the midst of grief and recovery, survivors can cultivate gratitude by mindfully acknowledging and appreciating the positives in their lives, says the expert.

These strategies are like a roadmap to healing, growth, and renewed joy. But remember that finding happiness after domestic violence is a personal and unique process for each survivor.

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