Domestic violence is a tricky and messy subject. We might not notice it, or we even try to ignore it at times too, but we need to keep in mind that mistreatment and violence are never the answer.
No matter how hard admitting and getting help is, the fact still remains that you need to get out of these situations — for your sake. You might feel like there’s no hope, but here are some things you can do to get the help and support needed to overcome this situation.
Here’s where Victim Support Malta, a non-government organisation which provides support to victims of these crimes, comes in.
1. The Signs
Signs of domestic violence include isolation from loved ones, a sense of dependence on the abuser, low or deteriorating self-esteem, belittling of the victim, and the abusive partner using the silent treatment.
Other signs include gas-lighting, sexual assault and enforcing the lack of ability to believe in yourself. Victim Support Malta also mentioned instances where money can be used as a tool — for example if one of the people in the relationship is the breadwinner, they might hold back on giving financial support to their partner if certain duties are not performed.
2. Seeking help
When it comes to seeking help, the first step is to inform yourself of what services and resources are currently available for you like finances, support networks and who you can trust. When trying to devise a plan, one needs to know what is needed to get out of the situation.
“When you get in contact with an entity to seek help, you should ensure that this is done when the perpetrator won’t be home for a couple of hours,” VSM’s Krista Tabone told Lovin Malta. “I cannot stress this point enough; it is very important that the perpetrator doesn’t find out that the victim is seeking help. Research indicates that the highest possibility of serious harm inflicted on victims is when the perpetrator feels that the victim will leave the perpetrator.”
One can even take a close friend to an initial appointment at the support agency. People are also advised to do proper research before choosing an agency in order to get the aid which mostly fits the situation.
It is also advisable to delete the call logs from your mobile phone after placing a call with a support agency in order to cover any traces. This is especially important if the abuser maintains control over the victim’s devices. One should also tell the agency if the perpetrator has access to their phone so that they can have specific ways to contact you if this is the case.
When someone wants to leave an abusive relationship but they’re financially dependant on the abuser, the situation can get very tricky. The issue here is that due to the fact that the victim is dependent on the perpetrator, they will become hesitant to make a move and leave. With the help of therapeutic sessions and support from other professionals, they can find the courage in themselves to engage in a new lifestyle.
Even though sometimes the victim feels like they cannot leave an abusive relationship, it is still beneficial for them to seek help. People who work with domestic abuse cases may still be able to help this individual find the way to safety.
4. The vicious cycle of isolation
In a situation where the victim is isolated from family and friends, a vicious cycle can be created in which the victim comes to think of themselves as being unwanted — therefore this would lead to further isolation and loneliness.
They may even develop a tendency towards self-blaming, which may develop further dependancy on the abuser. This isolation from family and friends can be used by the perpetrator as a tool to make the victim think that nobody loves them and that they are unworthy. The truth is that the perpetrator often creates this isolation to make the victim dependant on them — in these cases the victim should initiate contact with family and friends in order to reopen their social circle again. Therapists and counsellors can help with this process.
When someone needs to report a case of domestic violence, it is best to report to the closest police station. The person reporting should preserve any evidence in the best way they can, and in case of physical injury, one should seek the assistance of a doctor either in the form of a personal GP or at the local polyclinic. Always ask for a medical report to take to the police when filing a report. When reporting a case, one should also make sure to get the receipt of the report from the police in order to have a reference to it.
In the words of Victim Support Malta, “domestic violence is an ex-officio offence, which means that it must be investigated even in the absence of the consent of the injured party. If the injured party, in this case the partner who is experiencing abuse, does not wish to comply with the investigation, there are other sources which the police can investigate.”
Sometimes people refrain from reporting domestic violence because they do not want the people around them to know about it. Other times, cultural background comes into play as people worry about gossip or their family being portrayed in a negative light.
Domestic violence is underreported due to its cycle where the victim experiences periods of tension, periods of violence and reconciliation periods where the perpetrator often promises not to engage in such behaviour anymore. This period of calmness is generally short lived and the abuse starts again.
6. Offering Support
When asked what is the best way to offer support to loved ones dealing with domestic abuse, Victim Support Malta told us that one should provide the person with empathy rather than sympathy. “Do not blame the victim for what they are experiencing,” Krista told Lovin Malta. “Rather, try to listen with all of your awareness to what is being said, do not listen with the intent of replying.” Sometimes, refrain from asking questions if they are purely out of curiosity — talking about such experiences can be very traumatic and the first response a victim gets will often determine whether or not they choose to seek help.
Keep yourself informed about any available services like the ones mentioned above in order to provide information and support them he best way you can when they seek help. You can do this by being present when they make their first appointment or even just follow up with them to see if they’re alright. If the victim decides not to report the crime or seek help, do not hold it against them. Instead, try to understand and motivate them to try another time.
Victim Support Malta also offers help to victims of sexual assault, theft, harassment and discrimination. You can contact them on 21 228 333 or [email protected]