Monday, January 31, 2011

Violence Against Women: Transforming from Victim to Conqueror

Violence against women encompasses a multitude of possible behaviors and associated consequences. The most prominent forms are that of domestic violence, rape, incest, and physical child abuse that may or may not be accompanied by an underlying sexual nature. While violence and abuse can take on slight variations, the emotional abuse that it originates from carries the damaging after-effects that cause the recipient to continue to feel victimized.

Victims of rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence become engaged in a lifelong battle from the moment the first act of violence is inflicted upon them. Many of the after effects associated with the original abuse stem from a battered sense of self-esteem. For example, the act of substance abuse is not only tied to a need to numb feelings of anxiety and depression. Substance abuse can also stem from a need to potentially self-destruct in order to gain a source of positive attention or support. It is a dysfunctional way to attempt to reach out for assistance with the inner negative feelings that accompany low self-esteem.

Some of the more serious after-effects of sexual violence against women, such as dissociative identity disorder, will usually require professional treatment. However, many of the emotional after-effects involve calling on one’s own sense of inner strength and willingness to no longer be controlled by external influences. Learning to develop or re-develop one’s own self-concept takes patience, time, and quite a bit of self-examination. Yet, it is crucial to separating one’s identity with the abuse experience.

Self-forgiveness is another aspect associated with moving past the victim identity. Battered women and survivors of abuse tend to place a large amount of blame on their own selves. Victims of violence can do this for the actual act(s) of the abuse, in addition to developing a cycle of high levels of self-criticism and unrealistic expectations for many of life’s aspects.

While recovery from an abusive relationship and acts of sexual violence is an individual process, it is important to not continue in complete isolation. Reaching out to others with similar experiences through professional counseling, support groups, as well as existing social networks, is just as important to the process. Abuse victims often feel alone in their experience(s), that others will think of them as untouchable or unlovable, and intense amounts of shame. Being around others with similar experiences and perspectives can aid in the re-development of trust, healthy coping mechanisms, and a sense of belonging or community.

Sexual violence against women is a cultural aspect of our society that many of us don’t want to acknowledge. It is, in many ways, a result of gender inequalities and power imbalance. Often rooted in emotional abuse tactics, its after-effects can manifest as a life-long struggle for its survivors. Overcoming both the intense negative self-concept and desire to deny the associated feelings of suffering is an individual recovery process that can greatly benefit from outside support. However, in the end it is about the abuse survivor developing a willingness to not allow her identity to be associated with the abuse act(s) or an external perspective of who she should be.

(2010). RAINN: Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.
(2009, May 23). Domestic Violence Against Women: Recognize Patterns, Seek Help. Mayo Clinic.

Read more at Suite101: Violence Against Women: Transforming from Victim to Conqueror

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