Five stages of healing will be revealed at annual conference
any of us who work in the field of domestic violence spend a lot of time working with people to help them survive and deal with trauma. We’ve learned that healing involves something deeper. Often, it’s a process that requires reconciling with one’s self and evolving.
Healing doesn’t occur on anyone’s timetable. You can’t move further than the mind or body will let you. And you must actively engage in the process of healing. Some domestic violence victims don’t even recognize that they’re in the process until they reach the later stages, and they’re able to reflect on what they’ve managed to survive.
We’ve done extensive research on healing and have identified five stages of healing that are not specific to trauma. These stages go beyond what is required to deal with trauma to the next step, which is the process of healing. Reconciliation is key to this. We are hopeful that our research will be an important addition to the current literature in the field. What we’ve learned through our research will be revealed at our conference in August.
Healing allows survivors to move on with their lives
The long-term effects of domestic violence-related for both survivors and child witnesses are varied. For both, the psychological wounds can remain open indefinitely and some may turn to defense mechanisms and unhealthy behaviors (such as denial, rationalization, drugs and alcohol abuse) to numb the pain and to maintain themselves and their children in the midst of chaos and victimization. Some survivors feel the effects of abuse for several years after the violent events have ended.
Even in subsequent, satisfying, trusting, non-abusive relationships, it is not uncommon for survivors to react to conflict or environmental stressors as if abuse is imminent. They consistently report feelings the need to “walk on eggshells” out of fear for their safety.
Although many have been role models and leaders in the world as they have lived their lives post abuse, other victims have reported, “they lack the confidence and self-esteem to move forward in healthy ways.” There are also significant consequences for adults who witnessed violence as children. It is well documented that a child’s exposure to domestic violence causes a number of reactions and challenges for them to overcome as adults and can continue into the next and subsequent generations, if not addressed.
Further, those children who appear resilient may be asymptomatic but still remain challenged by their childhood experiences. Most adult and child victims don’t approach domestic violence or child services programs, as a means of recovery and healing.
What road maps exist to help victims with recovery?
Healing – or the lack thereof – can have a profound effect on whether survivors of abuse and adults witnessing domestic violence as children can achieve a personal sense of well-being. Yet for many involved in domestic violence, there’s no clear pathway to achieving the healing that is so greatly desired. The Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community (IDVAAC) will explore this topic through its conference, A Journey to Healing: Finding the Path, to be convened Aug. 3-4 in Long Beach, Calif.
During the past year, we’ve interviewed 50 women to learn about the stages individuals commonly go through while healing from domestic violence. Some of their journeys have been videotaped in advance to be shared on the opening day of the conference.
Friends of IDVAAC also will explore the definitions of and the journey to healing with survivors of domestic violence and adults who witnessed domestic violence as children. The conference will also feature panel discussions, workshops, and artistic expressions.
You can read more about this conference on the next two pages of this newsletter. You can also find out more about this exciting event by visiting our web site at www.idvaac.org.
Other topics in this newsletter
This edition of our newsletter also features a profile of Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley from Howard University, a peek at what our friends at Respect in the United Kingdom are up to, and an overview of the DVD we produced on our findings on how different cultures deal with domestic violence in Detroit.
Please join us as we continue our quest to heal victims of domestic violence in the African American community. Like my relatively minor wrestling wounds, we can learn to move forward in a healthy manner and not be overwhelmed by domestic violence for the rest of our lives.