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To understand domestic abuse, you really have to get your head around how it is possible to love someone who treats you really badly, and who at times you also hate. It’s a difficult and complex issue and also, one that you don’t even understand when you are in the midst of it yourself. Or maybe then, least of all.
Some 4-8 year olds were asked what love means and their answers make really interesting reading:
‘When my grandma got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandpa does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.’ Rebecca aged 8
‘During my piano recital, I was on stage and scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.’ Cindy aged 8
‘Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken.’ Elaine aged 5
‘Love is when mommy sees daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.’ Chris aged 7
‘Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.’ Mary Ann aged 4
‘You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it you should say it a lot. People forget.’ Jessica aged 8
And from a 4 year old whose next door neighbour was an elderly man who had just lost his wife. When the child saw the man cry the little boy went over into the man’s yard and climbed on his lap and just sat there. When the boy’s mother asked him what he’d said to the man the little boy said – ‘Nothing, I just helped him to cry’.
Love is powerful, overwhelming and totally beyond logic or reason. When you are trying to help someone through abuse and they are unable to move forward because of their ‘love’ for the other person, it is vital we show empathy and understanding whilst also trying to put a context of safety into the mix.
I have been working with abuse for many years and I know the frustrations. You see the person before you gradually getting eroded by the relationship but their eyes light up when they talk about their abuser and how things used to be. And that is the key. Helping someone to come back to the reality of now – the reality of the abuse. It is so easy in your mind to keep returning to a time when life was better, when your partner showed only love, when the cracks in the relationship didn’t feel so damaging.
If you are in that situation with someone, there is little point in trying to force them to believe something they choose to ignore. Coming from a professional that often has an adverse reaction. The more you seem to criticise the abuser, the more their sense of loyalty forces them to defend, and collude. So where, you may say, do I go from here without colluding as well?
Once people are resistant, it is very difficult to work with, or even build a relationship with them. We need to have some sense of co-operation. Please don’t present Pathway or the Family Justice Centre as part of the ‘system’. It is more helpful if they see us as support not sanction.
If you can ‘sell’ to them what we have, it is helpful. Please feel free to refer, or pass our numbers on, for either Pathway Project or the Family Justice Centre. We are here to help, and in helping them we can help you too. If they are struggling with their children and parenting why not refer them to our children’s team. If they are isolated you could suggest attending our Friday group. Free crèche and transport are provided. If they are depressed / sad/ struggling with life, maybe our counselling service would help.
We want to work closely with you to provide the best possible service and options to the people you work with. Please look around our site and see how much we have to offer. Working together we can provide choices and support that can help people to make the best decision for them, for their families and for their future. Referral is simple and quick and we will be happy to help.