According to a recent article written by Suzanne Jacobs, the CEO at SafeLives 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. That’s a staggering 2 million adults each in UK alone and in some parts of the world, this is even more. Domestic Abuse could be happening to someone you may have seen on the train, work with or to your neighbour as you read this article. It can be behind any closed door you see. According to the article it costs £2.3 billion to health services, £1.3 billion to police, £336 million in criminal legal costs as well as £550 million in housing. It has a significant impact on individual’s finances, physical and mental health and it put children’s safeguarding and well-being at risk. In my view the emotional suffering caused by these experiences can not be measured.
I am aware such a complex issue cannot be penned in to a two-page article. On the other hand, I also believe that if we all take responsibility to take steps forward like we have always done, solutions to such complex issues are not that far from us either. So, in my view, I have recognized five areas that we need to focus on to tackle the issue.
If our lives are a river, education is the fountain that feeds that river. I am pleased to see this field moving in the right direction to safeguard children, improve their mental health and well-being which has a positive impact on creating resilient children who will grow up to be strong adults. The work has just begun, and school education system cannot do this alone. We must all take the responsibility to educate ourselves on signs, impact, and ways to move on from a horrendous experience such as domestic abuse. Basic Safeguarding Training must include ways of spotting signs of domestic abuse and polices on how to deal with such situations. Schools can encourage age appropriate conversations around the subject.
A nationwide awareness campaign is needed to raise awareness of the types of domestic abuse that can take place as there’s more to it than physical abuse. Media can do a great deal promoting survivors’ stories as every story has that vital point where the survivor realizes what’s going on with them is unacceptable. More positive stories people hear, more believable the survival becomes. It can give hope to people to get out of such situations.
2. Legal Framework and Politics
This point is about not what political party will do better to save victims. It’s more about our responsibilities on choosing the right candidates. When choosing the representatives, let’s all make it a priority to elect people who have an awareness of sensitive issues like this. It really doesn’t matter what we do, if the majority of the parliament doesn’t believe that these are important issues. No bill would be passed and therefore, no actions will be taken. So, it’s important to question candidates’ views on these issues and their approach and passion when supporting the survivors. After all, when there are people who are driven by real passion to support the survivors, more things can be achieved.
Culture has a significant impact on recognizing what domestic abuse is and taking actions to prevent it. People are often resistant to cultural change. Some will guard their culture with every breadth they take. ‘Change’ in itself is a threat to anyone of us when we are uncertain what that change is. That’s why culture is a hard nut to crack when it comes to domestic abuse. But, what if there’s a subtle way? Culture as a whole is a complicated matter for people to understand. But taking the specific aspects of a culture that fuel domestic abuse separately may give clarity on tackling it. Once the specific aspects are identified, a strategic plan can be put in place to evolve an alternative culture. I personally prefer methodical approaches to any movement where we have clearly identified a goal, knowing how to measure success and deciding how to get there. But there can be alternative approaches too. So, what should we be moving towards? In my view, emotional independence is the key goal to be moving towards. Once, you have gained emotional independence, it becomes very difficult for anyone else to control your freedom.
We spend 1/3 of our lives at work. The work environment influences our thoughts, behaviours, well-being, personal finances and our self-growth. Therefore, the influence work life has on us is important. Creating psychological safety at work environment encourage people to speak about their personal worries, trusting relationships at work discourage fear of being judged and encourage a sense of community which is crucial in opening up about something like domestic abuse. Providing training on how to spot domestic abuse, how to listen to when someone is opening up about such situations and having additional funds to support victims are vital steps that a work place can do.
Out of all the solutions, ‘I’ is the most important factor in tackling domestic abuse. “I” should take responsibility. I quote the following from Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedom – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances to choose one’s own way” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.
Dismissing such a powerful statement as philosophical is a choice anyone can take. For me, this is where a lot of things can change for us. Giving ourselves our worth, when no one else does, treating ourselves as important when no one else does, telling ourselves we are good when no one else does is a choice we can make. We all subject to social conditioning as children, teenagers and adults and those conditioning make us who we are. If we choose to re condition ourselves as people with many strengths, the decisions we should take for our freedom will appear out of nowhere. Because it is your self-worth that will guide you the way. If you don’t believe me, read or watch the stories of the survivors. There’s one thing in common. All of them told themselves that they are important and what’s happening to them is not acceptable even when they were physically locked in basements, their spirits remained free.
I quote Viktor Frankl again. He says in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour”. So, leaving a partner, a family may stir abnormal reactions in you, but tell yourself ‘it’s normal’. If you are a victim, you have breathed, woken up, cried in silence. That is a strength you may have not yet realized. So, wake up, breathe, cry again if you feel like it and walk away from the situation you are in. You are walking to your freedom and the universe will join in with you to celebrate it.