Commentary

March 28, 2014

Resiliency: Transforming abuse victims from survivors to ‘thrivers’

Resiliency is the key ingredient to shifting people’s lives from survivors, or victims of domestic abuse, to “thrivers.”

Recovery from domestic violence is based on the belief that healing from relationship violence is a social, spiritual, cultural and psychological process. Within the context of a supportive community, women and men can transition through stages of healing by creating an image of themselves and their future that is drastically different from their past. These progressive steps can draw them away from an identity rooted in trauma and violence toward a sense of wholeness entrenched in health, completeness and strength. It is critically important for the community here at Luke Air Force Base to understand the astonishing resiliency, courage and power it takes to thrive against domestic violence.

Leaving an abusive relationship is the most critical time in the cycle of violence because of the increased risk of serious injury or death. A safety plan must be in place before any attempt to leave is made. The first critical step for victims is to ask for help. For many, this step is the most difficult. Military victims have additional challenges when it comes to domestic violence. Many are hundreds, if not thousands of miles from family and friends. Many stay longer in the abusive relationship because they have no support system to turn to for help. In addition, many are cut-off and isolated from finances, family, friends, transportation or a means of employment. However, once they have gathered up the courage to reach out and ask for help the wonderful transformation within them begins. They begin to reach out to their support systems for help. They engage in education, counseling and treatment for domestic violence. They learn to receive aid and accept food to feed themselves and their children. They become amazingly resourceful. Some have been creative in finding apartments within their means or finding foundations who donate plane tickets for them to go back home. They are intelligent, resilient, strong and courageous in the face of adversity.

The following is a typical experience of many:

“Our marriage happened so fast … he was Prince Charming! However, right after we got married, I mean within a week, he hit me for the first time. I am still shocked and confused how some people can physically and verbally abuse other people. It is not in me to hurt others, so I find it very difficult to accept that others can hurt people, especially someone I love and trust. I wasn’t raised this way and have never had this happen before. I used to be an outgoing person, very sociable … now I’m afraid of and timid around people. My husband has told me I am ugly, nothing, a terrible cook and housekeeper. He says I am never going to be anything, that I’m useless, and everything is my fault for anything that’s happened during his day. I think he has said these things daily to me for two years now. After a while, you believe them. I mean, it happened so gradual, but looking back, I see where I slowly became exactly what he said I was. I don’t know how, but one day I had had enough and went for help. Through the little bit of help I’ve gotten, I finally see that I am a good person, and I am worth it. I deserve happiness and a life without being ripped down and beaten down verbally and physically. No matter how much I love him, this is not a loving relationship.”

This woman went on to turn her life around; she was creative in finding an apartment within her income. She has learned the warning signs of domestic violence and feels confident that she will pick a partner in the future who is not abusive. She has regained her happiness in life and is sociable again. She has found female friends where she lives, and they spend time together talking and sharing the expense of meals. She recently told me she was called for a job interview.

To help victims of abuse and possible life-threatening conditions, start by listening to them, suggest the DAVA as a place to go and talk about options, and avoid suggesting they leave the situation without having a safety plan in place. If a victim does not want to get help at Luke, assist them in getting it in the local community. Most police departments have victim advocates and can provide information to get assistance from the state and national Coalition on Domestic Violence.

For more information, contact the DAVA directly at these numbers.

DAVA at Luke AFB

623-255-3487

Family Advocacy Program

623-856-3417

Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence

602-279-2900 or 800-782-6400

National Domestic Violence Hotline

800-799-SAFE (7233) or 800-787-3224

Arizona Child Protective Services Hotline

888-SOS-CHILD (767-2445), 602-530-1831 or 800-530-1831




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