Separation with domestic violence
If you are considering leaving a relationship that is dominated by domestic violence, there are many things for you to think about before you walk out that door. Of course, if you are in physical danger, get out right now! And please DON’T GO BACK! Research clearly shows the physical act of leaving the relationship increases your chances significantly of being killed by the perpetrator. However, if you have already left your relationship once or twice and gone back, don’t be hard on yourself, as the average number of times it takes a woman in Australia to leave a domestic violent relationship is seven times! But with more education around the dangers of leaving a violent relationship will help victims and their supporters to be aware of how to do so as safely as possible. The easiest way to comprehend why leaving a violent relationship is so dangerous for the victim, is to remember the perpetrator has taken a lot of time and effort to get their victim exactly where they want them and they aren’t about to give that away without a fight.
That is why for approximately two months after a victim leaves the relationship, the perpetrator will go into a what is considered a ‘honeymoon’ period. This is where they will do everything they can to win back their victim, to try and convince them to return home. They will promise to change their behaviours, that they never meant to hurt or frighten their victim. They will even do their best to convince their victim that it was actually their fault that the relationship was not working and if the victim would just try harder, or do as they were told everything would be ok.
For the victim, they often hear the exact words that they are looking for. They hear remorse, regret and apologies. A perpetrator will do whatever it takes to get their victim back under their control and are usually excellent actors and can easily manipulate their victim’s emotions. But remain strong. Remember that you are being manipulated, that you weren’t imagining all of those terrible times, that they weren’t just a figment of your imagination. Do your best to be strong and know that you deserve better, to be treated well and humanely.
But, if you are unsure if you are being manipulated and if it is safe to return to your relationship, some tips for you to remember include:
- Listen to your gut. Our instincts are rarely wrong and if we are willing to listen to them, they usually do a pretty good job in warning us of danger. It is just when our brain tries to rationalize another person’s behaviours to explain our uncertainty is when we start to override our gut instincts and we start making excuses for their abusive behaviours. On a lighter note, remember the movie He’s Just Not Into You as an example of how listening to your gut can save you a lot of time wasted on a relationship that isn’t healthy for you.
- Be open to listening to what your family and friends have to say about your relationship. Sometimes family and friends feel like they can’t tell you when you are in the abusive relationship what they can see. Either because they go against better judgement also and believe the stories the perpetrator is very good at spinning, or they don’t feel like you are open to hearing the truth and they don’t want to lose their relationship with you. But if you can, hear what your loved ones tell you, sit with the information and take the opportunity to really think about it. Sometimes we need to hear it from others because when you are being abused, you are too close to have any perspective of what is normal!
- Have they given you any evidence that their word is trustworthy before? If you can only think about the endless broken promises you have experienced in the relationship, then there is absolutely no reason to believe anything they say is true now. Their track record of being trustworthy is an excellent place to start if you are feeling confused.
Remember, you are the expert on your own relationship and only you know the true extent of the abuse you have endured. Believe in yourself and know that you are worthy of living a life free of abuse. Also, don’t try to leave the relationship on your own, there is so much support out there to help you leave safely. Call 1800 RESPECT which is a national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service, which is open 24 hours with trained professionals ready to help.