Most would agree that domestic abuse is an issue that affects family, friends and the community at large. It is also sometimes mistakenly labelled as a “woman’s issue,” a private matter.
Certainly we are well aware that child abuse carries a legal responsibility, “a duty to report.” Yet there still seems to be hesitation to recognize that intimate partner violence affects everyone, in particular women. Stats Canada (20l4) has reported that 68 per cent of women who experience abuse turn to family and friends for support, and 26 per cent turn to their co-workers. Also it is reported that 70 per cent of women who are being abused do not report it to the police.
Sadly, research clearly shows the trauma that women who have experienced intimate partner violence has similar effects to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). The impact is often long term and include “feelings of detachment, being constantly on guard, nightmares, and avoidance behaviours: (Stats Canada 2014). These effects are not surprising given that 25 per cent of victims experience the most severe types of abuse which include sexual assault, choking, and threats with a weapon.
As a parent, sibling or friend one might feel ill prepared to help and support. Often is it difficult to see a loved one experience such trauma. It is important to be aware that there are services that can help both the victim and those trying to offer support. In addition to our agency, Bernadette McCann House (wsssbmh.org), the Women’s Sexual Assault Center (wsac.ca), and the Victim Quick Response Program (victimservicesrenfrewcounty.ca) are also available to offer support to women who are being abused.
Sometimes the best help you can provide is a listening ear. Also, voice that you believe them and it is not their fault. Just remember to offer them support that you can realistically provide, i.e. child care, a ride to an appointment, and encourage them to reach out to the above agencies.