What happens when you live with violence for years of time?
When violence happens every day, or every other day, or every week?
How do you cope with that much fear and chaos?
How do save yourself from falling into a deep, dark depression?
What happens to your sense of trust?
What do you do with your own huge feelings?
What if you are trapped in that situation and don’t know how to remove yourself from it?
Living with chronic family violence / domestic violence can feel impossible, and yet, when you are trapped in that situation, it feels equally impossible to find a way out of it.
The ongoing chaos and fear erodes all sense of safety and security. Why? Because you’re not safe. You know you’re not. And there is no security. You know that it can happen again, any minute now. Maybe not this hour, but just as easily in 3 minutes from now. That constant need to be wary of and prepared for instantaneous explosions of rage keeps you in a constant state of fear and crisis.
“I’m strong enough — I’ll be able to get through this scary episode.”
Did you say that to yourself?
Yes, you probably were strong enough to survive it — obviously you were, or you wouldn’t be reading this article right now. And thank goodness you survived it. I’m really glad to see that, well done. It’s very good and a testament to your strength of character that you survived it.
But at what cost? What have those years of violence done to you?
And are you out and away from violence today? Could it happen again? Are you still caught in the cycle? Or have you found your way all the way out of the abuse-trap? And have you created enough safety in your life right now that you can enjoy living and have pleasant or beautiful days that are not filled with pain or fear?
“I’m smart enough — I’ll plan my escape route, and have emergency plans ready.”
Did you have to do that?
- Do you keep your car keys in your pocket at all times?
- Do you keep clothing, personal hygiene items, pillows, and blankets packed in your car, or near the door?
- Do you have an extra supply of any medical necessities, such as medications, first aid materials, inhalers, insect repellent, or sun screen packed in your car or an accessible place?
- Do you have a secret hiding place, or two, in mind at all times?
- Do you have a place to go?
- Do you have a few dollars hidden away somewhere to use for emergency funds?
- Do you have an extra phone charger or coins for a pay phone and a list of helpful phone numbers?
- Do you keep your phone well-charged, especially when you can see that violence could be looming ahead?
- Do you have an extra car key or house key tucked away for emergency purposes?
You may have to run out the door in a giant hurry. Be ready and prepared ahead of time for that.
Keep your emergency stash hidden in places where you can get to them. This might mean things need to be hidden in trees, or sheds, or somewhere outside where you can still get to what you need if you are out of the house.
And what if you aren’t old enough to drive, or if you don’t have a car. Then what? Where could you go?
This particular article focuses more on adults living in family violence / domestic violence.
It’s an even bigger mess when children are living in family violence. The options are so much more limited — practically non-existent — for a child to find safety and protection from family violence on their own. It’s hard enough for an adult to leave a violent situation. Children need the help of safe adults to find ways out of violence.
Without protective adults, children even in their youngest years have to learn how to comply with violence, how to survive ongoing violence, how to exist within violence, how to dissociate from violence, how to separate from intense fear and pain, how handle such crises all on their own, etc. The scars on children run incredibly deep. The topic of childhood violence needs many articles of it’s own, separate from this one.
Regardless of your age, living in a constant state of fear and needing to plan for the very real possibility of violence in your every single day has an enormous impact on your overall life. Adults have more choices and resources than children, but adults can be depleted, trapped, and blocked from their freedom as well.
Planning to leave and remove yourself from the violence is crucial for your survival. Even if you can leave the premises for short periods of time, that will show you that you can do what it takes to leave for longer.
Eventually, you’ll be able to make plans to leave the violence completely. It really will take some pre-planning, so use those smarts of yours and get yourself outta there as soon as you possibly can.
Is there interference in your daily functioning?
It’s difficult to fight any battle at your best when your physical resources are weakened, and chronic family violence can certainly wear you down.
It’s hard to sleep, because you might need to stay awake to make that escape from danger. Or, you might be trapped in a raging episode, and you won’t be allowed to sleep because the raging abuser won’t allow it. Or you might find it hard to sleep outdoors or in your car. Or you might be so upset and distraught by the violence that you can’t calm down enough to sleep.
It’s hard to eat properly. In a state of crisis, people tend to eat little or nothing or overeat . Being able to cook or create healthy meals takes time, planning, and preparation. When your day or evening is suddenly interrupted by violence, you either eat nothing at all, or eat what you can grab quickly, or you eat what you can find out in town.
Possibly you had a few food items packed in your emergency get-away bag. It’s better than nothing, but healthy options may be less available for pre-packing. Crisis eating can be very different from healthy eating, and that becomes another layer of problem experienced.
Have your medications or medical routines been compromised? Has your medical equipment been broken, hidden from you, tampered with, or destroyed, just so you couldn’t have it? Do you have the ability to take proper care of your health and medical needs while you are fighting against ongoing family violence?
Do you have the resources to leave chronic violence?
What if you are financially dependent on the person who is raging? What if you don’t have your own source of income? What if you are a child unable to provide for yourself? What if you are ill or disabled? What if you work from home but the raging abuser just chased you out the door?
There are numerous different options for being stranded and financially trapped.
Sometimes leaving abusers means you’ll be homeless for awhile. Sometimes it means you will be living in your car. Sometimes it means you will be living in a shelter. Sometimes it means you’ll be out on the streets with no where to go. Maybe you have a friend or two you could stay with, or maybe you’ll be all alone.
When living out on the streets feels safer and less risky than living at home with violent raging, you know you’ve got a problem.
Leaving family violence / domestic violence situations, can create a whole new crisis for the survivor. Just walking out the door (or running out the door) isn’t enough. It’s a great start, but there are layers of additional problems that can make leaving a violent home a very complicated process. When you know you need to leave, start planning ahead. Figure out your options, and know your local resources, and gather the items you need as quickly as you can.
In the urgency of encouraging people to find safety from violence, I’ve strayed off the original intended topic.
What does chronic family violence do to a person?
Here’s a brief list:
Frightens them — literally, living in fear, with shaking, nightmares, hypervigilence, incontinence, diarrhoea, etc.
Keeps the survivor in a constant state of crisis, chaos, conflict, and confusion
Destabilizes and interrupts plans for everything from personal growth, employment, education, entertainment, budgeting, nice dinners, quiet evenings, etc.
Prevents healing, creates new wounds, and opens old wounds
Puts the physical body in a state of crisis, affecting weight, sleep, health, digestion, etc.
Creates difficult and heavy feelings of shame, embarrassment, horror, fear, terror, etc.
Interferes with personal growth and self esteem and overall wellbeing
Socially isolates the survivor, either by demands of the abuser, or by needing to hide the evidence of abuse from others
Makes physical injuries and scars, including lifelong scars
Makes emotional injuries and scars, creating PTSD, anxiety, depression, dissociation, depersonalization, etc.
Impacts the ability and willingness to have positive relationships with other people
Creates fears and phobias about simple, normal household items or routines that were turned into weapons or used to create pain or terror
Personal items of value or necessity get destroyed, ruined, stolen, sold, etc. creating an overwhelming sense of loss and powerlessness
The repeated disrespect and extreme devaluing of the survivor’s worth and importance creates deep emotional pain and self-loathing.
Financial stress, possible years of poverty, with unexpected expenses, increased medical bills, interrupted work schedules, extra expenses for repairs or replacement of items damaged or destroyed, all due to the chaos created by violence
Having your life threatened repeatedly teaches the survivor to question the value and importance of their own life, but often not in a positive way.
This list can be expanded in numerous ways — it is by no means complete.
When you think about the ways that chronic family violence affected your life, what else would you add to the list?
Please feel free to add your ideas to the comments below. We all learn from each other’s experiences.
I want you to be safe.
It was horrifically wrong for you have been abused as a child.
It is not okay whatsoever if you are being abused as an adult.
You need safety.
You deserve safety.
Take as many little steps as you need to get yourself out of violence of every kind.
I wish you the best in your healing journey. Be safe!
Copyright © 2008-2020 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation