Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2016 South Africa

Abuse isn’t just about bruises. Not all forms of abuse leave bruises where we can see them,Domestic Violence Awareness Month 2016 in South Africa . Although physical abuse is terrifying and needs to be addressed immediately there are other forms of abuse that can cause significant damage. One type of abuse that is very difficult for outsiders to detect is financial abuse. Marriage should be a partnership but when one spouse completely dominates the finances to the point that the other spouse has no control and no options financial abuse may be occurring.

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What Are Signs of Potential Financial Abuse?

Every married couple handles their finances differently. In some cases one spouse handles the majority of the finances. They manage the accounts, pay the bills and deal with creditors. That does not by itself equal financial abuse.

Financial abuse occurs when one spouse is treated like an irresponsible child and Domestic Violence Hotline . They are cut off from funds and their knowledge about the couple’s finances is severely limited. Some signs of financial abuse include:

•Strict Allowances. This isn’t an amount that the spouses have agreed to limit themselves to but is instead a set amount that is grudgingly handed out from one spouse to the other and is all that will be given.

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Documents, documents, documents. Written evidence is incredibly strong and can range from credit card bills showing that there is a credit card but that you aren’t named on it to emails from your spouse that show the financial abuse.

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Other witnesses can be incredibly powerful on your behalf. Financial abuse is hard for people outside the relationship to detect. So when someone credible comes in and tells the judge that it is happening and they can see it the judge will listen and Domestic Violence Hotline .

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Good self-esteem or positive identity is an asset to any person. It helps improve relationships, confidence, job performance and makes it easier to enjoy and embrace life to the fullest. When a person has been abused, their good self-esteem is threatened and often lost. Understanding how this happens and knowing practical ways to deal with it can be valuable tools in our self-help toolbox!

Each of us is born with the gift of individual person-hood. Our unique genetic make-up and DNA set us apart from all others. We have boundaries that help us to know where we stop and where others start. Inside of these boundaries and within the context of our individual person-hood, we are free to grow, to question, to risk, to explore and to experience life in our own unique way! If allowed to continue and encouraged from those closest to us, we become comfortable in our own skin (within our own boundaries) and a positive identity develops.

Abuse is an invasion of those boundaries; an attack on our individual person-hood. Abuse happens when someone stronger than ourselves overpowers us, either emotionally, physically, verbally or sexually. Even if the abuse is not "severe" in comparison to what others have experienced, the impact on our self-esteem can be severe. The boundaries between us and the perpetrator are blurred. We tend to own some or all of the blame for the abuse and thus take on what rightfully belongs to the invader. With our boundaries destroyed and our person-hood invaded, we are left vulnerable to the world around us and confused about who we really are.

A common reaction to the invasion of abuse is withdrawal. Sometimes the victim will withdraw so far that they actually dissociate from the event completely. This may be good in the long run except for the fact that the dissociation almost always involves other emotions, longings, fears and identity markers that can no longer be accessed. People who are extremely shy and introverted, people who are emotionally shut down and people who lack in social graces are often (not always) reacting to some kind of abuse. The invasion has left them afraid to feel, afraid to connect and afraid to make a mistake.

Another reaction to the invasion of abuse is an attempt to build a wall of defense. The feeling of vulnerability is countered by erecting some kind of wall that we believe will protect us. We can become very angry and keep others at arms length by our temper. We can become very controlling and thus minimize the possibility of future hurt. We can become very sarcastic or funny to deflect our real feelings. We can become an overachiever so that others will identify us by our accomplishments and not by our fears. These walls feel protective but are actually putting us in bondage. We cannot do life without our anger, control, sarcasm, humor or achievements so we are not free to be who we really are... we are forced to keep up the act... and that is exhausting.
This second reaction was my own way of dealing with childhood sexual abuse. I kept the walls firmly in place from age 11 until age 35. At that point, exhausted from trying to keep myself safe, I attempted suicide, not out of despair as much as out of exhaustion!

When we react in either of these ways to abuse, we end up losing ourselves, our true identity, our positive identity or self-esteem. There is another way. From my own experience I have learned the power of these positive and practical steps that can lead us out of brokenness and into confidence in who we really are. Consider the following:

1) Be honest about our abuse.

We cannot properly deal with all of the feelings and reactions associated with our abuse if we refuse to face what actually happened. As with any recovery program, admitting the problem is the beginning of healing.

2) Forgive those who hurt us.

Holding on to the anger, hatred, malice or even ambivalence toward our abuser only keeps us tied to them and to the abuse and its consequences. Forgiveness does not mean that you are saying it was no big deal. It is not saying that you would let them hurt you again. It is not saying that it did not happen. Forgiveness is simply a choice to release them after coming to the conclusion that there is nothing they could do that would take away what happened to us.

3) Surrender our coping mechanisms.

Just as we have to be honest about our abuse, we have to be honest about all of the ways that we have developed to try to help ourselves cope with the abuse. What walls have we erected? What masks have we put on to hide from others? What self-medicating habits have we picked up? Name these coping mechanisms and then willingly lay them down. We may need to invite a few people who are close to us into this process since we often have blind spots related to coping.

4) Embrace the truth about who we really are.

Learn to look beyond what happened to us to the person we really are on the inside. At this point, having a relationship with God is a key factor. If we have become connected with our Creator through the sacrifice of His Son Christ Jesus, we get our true identity from Him. We are His sons and daughter, regardless of our abuse, achievements, failures or coping mechanisms.

5) Join a safe community.

At this point, with walls torn down and feelings exposed, belonging to a community where we feel safe is vital. A support group, home group, counselor or accountability group can provide a place for us to grow in our new positive identity. People who know our need for healing and encouragement will be a great help in this process of rebuilding.

Commit with me not to allow past abuse in our lives to rob us of our positive identity. Choose life!

Abuse and Its Effects on Self-Esteem and Positive Identity

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1. Sticks and stones won't break my bones" - and words won't leave any measurable physical damage, but they will cause progressive, long-term harm. Never underestimate the power of words: words are used to brainwash.

Being told you are "stupid", "ugly", "lazy" or "worthless" is never acceptable. The first times you hear it, it will hurt, naturally. In time you "may get used to" hearing it from a partner. That's when you start to internalise and believe it. When that happens you are doing the other person's work of putting you down for them. This is why your feelings of self-worth suffer increasingly over time.

The good news is that just as words have been used to bring you down, you can learn to harness the power of words to build you up and restore your confidence and belief in yourself.

2. You are always told that it's your fault. Somehow, whatever happens, however it starts, the ultimate blame is always yours. Notice that we are talking ultimate blame here. The blaming partner will always tell you that their behaviour was caused by what you said or did. In fact, their argument runs along the lines that you can't possibly blame them for anything, because if you hadn't said what you said, or done what you did it would never have happened.

3. You're more inclined to believe your partner than you are to believe yourself. Have you ever reeled with a sense of hurt and injustice, or seethed with anger at the way you've been treated? Have you found yourself asking: "Is it reasonable to feel like this?" "Am I misinterpreting things?" "Have I got it wrong?"

If this is you, what it means is that you have become so brainwashed you've stopped trusting in your own judgement. Your mind keeps throwing up the observations and questions because, deep down, you know that what is happening is utterly wrong. But right now you can't feel the strength of your own convictions.

4. You need your partner to acknowledge your feelings. Have you ever felt desperate to make your partner hear what you are saying and apologise for the hurtful things they've said? Have you ever felt that only they can heal the pain they've caused?

Does your need for them to validate your feelings keep you hooked into the relationship?

When a partner constantly denies or refuses to listen to your feelings, that is, unquestionably, mental abuse.

5. Your partner blows hot and cold. He can be very loving but is often highly critical of you. He may tell you how much he loves you, yet he is short on care or consideration towards you. In fact, some of the time, maybe even a lot of the time, he treats you as if you were someone he truly dislikes.

You do everything you can to make him happy, but it's never good enough. You're more like the pet dog in the relationship than you are the equal partner. Your constant efforts to get his attention and please him meet with limited success. Sometimes he'll be charmed, often he's dismissive.

If you find yourself puzzling about how your partner can treat you that way, it is because you are trying to live in a love-based relationship, when in reality you are living in a control-based relationship. The mental abuser struggles with his own feelings of worthlessness and uses his relationship to create a feeling of personal power, at his partner's expense.

6. You feel as if you are constantly walking on eggshells. There is a real degree of fear in the relationship. You have come to dread his outbursts, the hurtful things that he will find to say to you. (Maybe the same anxiety and need to please spill over into your other relationships also.)

Fear is not part of a loving relationship, but it is a vital part of a mentally abusive relationship. It enables the abuser to maintain control over you.

7. You can heal. Mentally abusive relationships cause enormous emotional damage to the loving partner who tries, against all odds, to hold the relationship together and, ultimately, can't do it, because her partner is working against her.

Whether you are currently in a mentally abusive relationship, have left one recently, or years later are still struggling with the anxieties and low self-worth and lack of confidence caused by mental abuse, it is never too late to heal.

But you do need to work with a person or a programme specifically geared to mental abuse recovery.

Women who have suffered mental abuse expect radical change of themselves, and they expect it right away. This is why they often struggle and, not uncommonly, take up with another abusive partner.

Mental abuse recovery is a gradual process. Low self-worth and limiting beliefs about what kind of future the abuse sufferer can ever hope for are the blocks that can stop women from moving on. But they are blocks that you can clear very effectively. Just as language was once used to harm you, you can now learn how language can heal you. You can overcome past mental abuse and keep yourself safe from it in the future. You can also learn to feel strong, believe in yourself and create the life and the relationships you truly want.

"The Woman You Want To Be" is a unique workbook designed to accompany you on a year long journey into emotional health and happiness.

(C) 2005 Annie Kaszina

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