Written by Kudakwashe Nyakudya
In as much as many of us want to know the extent of Domestic Violence & Abuse (DVA) by way of using statistics, it has more weight for this pandemic to be known in terms of the lived experience of adult & child victims. Understanding the lived experience gives knowledge in another dimension, dictating for responses to be pro-active rather than reactive, bolder instead of mediocre, & sharper instead of hazy.
As a survivor of DVA I know first hand that if professionals, faith communities & politicians understood the agony & turmoil victims live with, including at post-separation, then their responses & strategies would be improved – as a matter of urgency. Embracing the knowledge on victims’ live experience defines DVA in a different manner, & closes the gap between the reality for victims & the assumed or accepted narrative by society.
There are three contributors to understanding lived experience of victims. These are the multi-dimensional impact of DVA on the victims, multidimensional challenges on their livelihoods & the world around them, & the victims’ hope for freedom by overcoming the impact & challenges.
There is usually use of statistics to measure the extent of the impact of DVA on the victims. But what carries more weight is understanding the devastation those statistics imply to those whose lives are affected. For example in Case 1, the meaning & experience of life of a well accomplished woman whose life is changed because she had become physically disabled as a result of a DVA injury. She now has to become dependent because not only has she become disabled, but her whole life with its achievements has been robbed, from her & she cannot take it back.
In Case 2, the meaning & experience of life of a very good mother of three who now has an enduring mental illness as a result of the emotional & psychological trauma of domestic abuse. Not only can she no longer take care of her children, but she can no longer defend them too. She may lose custody of her children because she is now deemed an “unfit” mother. The perpetrator who still appears to have intact mental health, appears to stand at an advantage, & he can sway matters at family courts & everywhere else as he decides, only unless the courts see & understand the lived experience of the victim caused by DVA – not her illness.
In Case 3, the meaning & experience of life of an intelligent & ambitious young boy, who was abused together with his mother & sustained both physical injuries as well as mental illness. He regularly presents suicidal thoughts & self-harm, but is forced to go for contact with his abusive father because CAFCASS & the family courts consider that it is in the “child’s best interests” to have a relationship with his father, who still abuses him during contact.
In all cases, the multi-dimensional impact of DVA becomes a trigger for multi-dimensional challenges in the livelihoods of the victims & the world around them. All areas of life are inter-connected, hence when one area is affected, all areas are.
There are also role conflicts & other life conflicts that surface i.e. how victims could still fulfill their roles of life confronted with the great obstacle that has threatened their survival. The well accomplished woman who has become a disabled & dependent victim can no longer satisfy her roles in life the same way & her world view has shifted. But does she focus on trying to regain all she has lost at a greater cost than before or does she focus on who she has now become & finds a new life with different fulfillment?
Statistics aim to measure the impact of DVA, but as a lived experience the impact is beyond scale. Yet despite this sobering social tragedy many victims hope to overcome all against them, & long for ultimate freedom, full recovery, & wholesome restoration. Experienced freedom would entail regained self esteem, wellbeing & safety, personal management of resources, human dignity, enablement & empowerment to achieve, supportive community, & reinstated parenthood (& or any other life roles).
With a new understanding on the lived experience, professionals, faith communities & politicians can be better informed on the devastative realities of DVA, that are otherwise only known (as an experience) by adult & child victims who desperately need implementation of strategies that tangibly transform their lives, so that they too enjoy life free from exacerbated consequences – with perpetrators held totally accountable for all their abuse & violence.
© Kudakwashe Nyakudya 2016. All Rights Reserved.