Earlier this week, we began discussing common misconceptions about domestic violence. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this issue is important in family law. It is not always easy to discuss, but silence generally only leads to more violence.
Our first post focused on the myth that domestic violence is solely a women’s issue. In reality, it affects men and children as well. Domestic violence is a family issue. In today’s post, we’ll discuss problems that can occur when one abuse survivor starts comparing his or her story with others.
It is important for victims to seek the help and support of other domestic violence survivors. But it is also important to remember to focus on the similarities between stories rather than the differences. If you begin to critically compare yourself to others, you run the risk of either minimizing your own experience or alienating yourself and others.
When victims share their “war stories” with one another, it may be tempting to judge yours by comparing how they are different. Perhaps you suffered physical violence but were never hospitalized because of it. Does this mean that your abuse was any less real than that of another survivor? Absolutely not. By minimizing your own story, you run the risk of convincing yourself that things were really “not that bad.”
Similarly, it may be tempting to judge another survivor for what they did or failed to do in their own situation. Perhaps they stayed with their abuser longer than you did. Perhaps they missed warning signs that you would find to be obvious. This, too, is a dangerous attitude to have. First of all, it makes it more difficult to be a source of support for other victims. Secondly, it alienates us because we convince ourselves that no one could truly understand what we have gone through.
If you are currently in a relationship with an abusive spouse, the first priority should be getting yourself and your children away from your abuser and into a safe space. After that, you may wish to reach out to an experienced family law attorney who can help you through the next steps.
Source: The Good Men Project, “2 Domestic Violence Myths Busted,” Sarafina Bianco, Oct. 6, 2014