Recently, I had a conversation about domestic violence, and how to deal with it in a therapeutic setting.
I learnt early into this conversation that the person I was speaking to was extremely concerned with facts, figures, definitions and statistics. I found it intriguing that whilst these are important things to recognise, they seemed to overshadow the individual.
When I enter a room with any client or clients, I need to remember that they aren’t a bunch of statistics. They’re people. People with their own experiences, views, identifications and personalities.
There is no one size fits all, and general definitions of things like emotional abuse are always up for interpretation. How can I justify telling someone that even though they think they were mistreated, it doesn’t fit into the definition?
So much of what we experience and encounter is based on our perspective, that if someone believes they were abused, they were. That’s not to start pointing fingers of blame, or to penalise anyone that has caused anyone else pain – not everything is done intentionally after all.
However, there are scars of abuse on that individual, and those can be worked with and alleviated. They can be worked with for what they were and what they remain to be, until they are ready to fade away.
Our experiences can also shape our perspectives, and there are cases where those that have witnessed certain acts of abuse may consider it “normal”. Convincing these people that they are in dire situations can then be difficult, and perhaps that’s where these definitions come in.
Either way, my concern would be the client. Whoever they are, however they feel. That story is the only story that matters, the only statistic and definition worth listening to, and helping to change that story is what matters most. We can’t turn back the clock and change what happened, but we can move ourselves, rebuild our strengths and reframe our perspectives. All of these things, done at the client’s pace, can support them in moving forward, and changing what they need to, in order to create a future that will break from the cycles they have been stuck in.
Quoting a song from a great musical I saw (Matilda):
“They never stood a chance, they were written that way
Innocent victims of their story
The endings are often a little bit gory
I wonder why they didn’t just change their story?”