Surviving domestic violence: How to heal from the trauma

Domestic violence affects many women in India, and they end up dealing with the emotional scars. A mental health expert shares tips to deal with the trauma of physical abuse.
Tips to heal from domestic violence trauma
Follow these tips to heal from domestic violence trauma, Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 27 Jun 2023, 13:45 pm IST
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Going by a National Family Health Survey (2019-2021), many women in India face domestic violence. It revealed that nearly 30 percent of married women in India aged between 18 and 49 have experienced domestic or sexual violence. The scars may fade from the body but the injuries on the mind can last a long time. People can end up with emotional and psychological trauma, but there are tips to heal from domestic violence trauma.

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

domestic violence
Domestic violence survivors can be happy. Image courtesy; Shutterstock

Challenges domestic violence survivors face

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

1. Emotional and psychological trauma

Domestic violence survivors often face intense fear, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The constant cycle of abuse, characterized by manipulation, threats, and humiliation, leaves survivors feeling powerless and trapped. The emotional scars or traumas can even lead to depression, low self-esteem and a heightened risk of developing mental health disorders.

2. Financial dependence and economic instability

Many survivors face significant financial challenges due to their abusive relationships. Abusers often control the family finances, leaving survivors economically dependent and without resources to escape the abusive situation. Financial constraints may prevent survivors from seeking legal help, securing safe housing, or accessing essential resources such as therapy and medical care. This economic instability can further come in their way of rebuilding their lives independently.

3. Isolation and lack of support

Domestic violence often isolates survivors from their support networks, leaving them feeling 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 the abuse. The absence of a strong support system worsens feelings of loneliness. 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 to heal from domestic violence trauma

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 too.

1. Practice self-care

Engaging in self-care activities is essential for survivors to prioritize their well-being and rebuild their lives. Whether practicing yoga, indulging in a favourite hobby, spending time in nature, or simply 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 into activities that bring them joy and fulfilment.

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2. Build a support system

Building a solid support system is vital for survivors as they go 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 others, is a powerful tool for healing, says Dr Tugnait. Domestic violence survivors need to release the burden of past mistakes or hurtful actions. Holding onto anger and resentment can come in the way of 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.

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4. Set boundaries

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

5. Learn to trust again

Survivors of domestic violence often struggle with trust issues due to the betrayal they have experienced. Learning to trust again takes time and practice, but it is 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 towards trust, survivors can rebuild their ability to form healthy connections and experience happiness in relationships.

6. Indulge in expressive arts

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

domestic violence
Domestic violence affects mental health too, 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 going for walks in a park, hiking in the mountains, or simply sitting by the sea, allows them to find peace.

8. Focus on gratitude

Shifting your mindset towards gratitude can be a great way to find happiness. Even amid pain and recovery, survivors can cultivate gratitude by consciously acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of their lives, says the expert.

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

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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