First, I’d like to appologise for my absense from my blog, I have some longterm health issues which get much worse when flu and cold season is upon us. I’m feeling improved, with a little way to go yet, but I have been desperate to get back to writing, so here I am, and it’s good to be here!
The final meditation from my book WITNESS is the one I wrote signifying gaining a place of safety, not an end in the journey of recovery, but an end to the abuse. Recovery is an on going process! We can reach a place of strength and peace, then something happens to put us back into that place of trauma. The very nature of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is that it goes on, because life goes on. We find ourselves relaxing with friends, then someone says something, or looks a certain way, and we are in a full blown PTSD episode. Hopefully, these episodes lessen as we continue to move on, and learn strategies to cope with these episodes. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that we survived the actual trauma, we have been strong and resourceful and this can be applied to our PTSD too.
When we have children who maintain contact with their Dad, it is likely that they continue to be treated in an unhealthy way by him. They then come home to you with their upset which can trigger your own issues; this is why it is important for you and your children to get good quality psychological support.
Sarah began by getting counselling from Marriagecare, a Catholic Relationship Counselling Service whose ethos includes the following (their emphasis):
‘We believe that preventing couple separation and maintaining an intact family where healthy relationships can exist and grow in goodness is of fundamental importance to the flourishing of family life and society at large.’
Sarah worried about approaching a Catholic organisation for fear she would be encouraged to remain in her marriage, but she found a counsellor with a person centred approach who understood her circumstances, and, as the quote above shows, this seems to be the approach of the whole organisation. Reaching out to an organisation from her own background made sense to Sarah; it is essential for us all to seek counselling where you feel most at home. Relate is known throughout the UK as a relationship counselling service. Relationship Scotland has a wide range of services including Child Contact Centres which are of particular help to children with abusive fathers.
Sarah found CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) to be hugely supportive of her children. David was 5 years old, and Erin 7 years old when they began meeting with Andrew, a Children’s Nurse Therapist, and they continued to see him until David was 19 years old. Andrew provided Erin and David with a safe space to air their problems, and offered advice to Sarah in supporting her children. David and Sarah were both referred to the Cedar Network which supports mothers and children who have experienced domestic abuse. Cedar invite mother and children together providing their own groups, a Mothers Group, and a Childrens Group where each group explores an aspect of living with Domestic Abuse and it’s aftermath. Both David and Sarah found Cedar gave them more confidence in themselves and a greater understanding of what they had experienced, added to which was the support of others with similar experiences.
I am aware that there are issues with Mental Health Service across the UK at present, particularly in England and Wales, I would still encourage you to ask your GP for a referral, and if that is not successful ask your GP to refer you to another service. Sarah found her own GP to be very supportive, referring her and her children to appropriate services as required.
For women with a faith tradition it seems obvious to seek support from our ministers, priests, rabbis and imams, howerver, the majority of these positions are held by men which may make approaching them difficult. Sarah was fortunate for a friends suggestion of speaking to a priest who was trained in counselling, and was straightforward in his belief that when her husband struck the first blow, he had broken the marriage contract.
Work is being done by many denominations and faith traditions to address domestic abuse in their congregations:
- here is a link to the Violence Against Women page on the Church of Scotland website,
- the Methodist Church document on tackling Domestic Abuse;
- Amina is a Muslim Women’s Resource Centre which includes support for women who have experienced, or are experiencing domestic abuse.
In finally reaching the point where Sarah was divorced, and living in her own house, she also needed the help of a solicitor, many friends and family. This final meditation is one of gratitude for all who helped Sarah, Erin and David reach safety in their own home.
Mother, when we felt alone and unable to go on, you were there in the friends who comforted us and the games we played together. You were in the doctor and therapists who cared for us and in the solicitor who gave us advice. You were there in the priest who supported us and the *sangha who walked with us and the women’s groups that shared our experience. You were there in the peace and quiet of the sea.