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December 6, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
WOW MAGAZINE | 7
"YOU HAVE A DIVINE, animal right to protect your own life and the life of
your offspring". This quote is from Enough, a movie in which Jennifer
Lopez plays an abused wife who takes us on a journey of strength and tri-
umph that would be inspiring to any woman, particularly abused women.
In Part 1 I uncovered the cycle of abuse and what causes victims to stay in
the abuse of domestic violence for so long. I tried to emphasise the impor-
tance of leaving and gave a few pointers as well as organisations that as-
sist victims in breaking the cycle of domestic violence. The problem is that
we all tell the victims to get out, leave, and may even have a plan sketched
out as to how, but unfortunately the human body takes no action unless
the mind first conceives and approves it. There is so much more psychol-
ogy involved in taking the steps to leave that I thought it would be unfair if
I did not share it. My hope is that it will help at least one victim triumph.
Making behavioural changes is difficult for human beings. In psychology
there is a theory called the Transtheoretic Model of Change, which postu-
lates that there are five stages to making a behavioural change; precon-
templation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance. I'm glad
that there are so many stages, because real change requires time and con-
scious decision-making; it shouldn't be too easy, if it is, the person is more
likely to revert to old ways. We will now look at these five stages from the
point of view of a victim of domestic violence.
During the precontemplation stage the victim is unaware of the abuse or
is finding excuses for the abuser, or is unwilling to make a change. He/She
has come to accept their situation as "normal". Colloquially we would say
that he/she is in denial. One cannot make a change if they do not recog-
nise that a change needs to be made. Usually what helps the victim ad-
vance to contemplation from precontemplation is comments from others.
When family and friends raise questions or make comments, this helps
the victim realise the abnormality and unacceptability of the situation.
Once in the contemplation stage, a long, difficult process begins that could
take years. In this stage the victim recognises the abuse and thinks about
it. What should he/she do? Should he/she talk to the abuser about it?
Should he/she leave the relationship? Should he/she talk to someone? A
crisis hotline? A shelter? Should he/she see a psychologist? The victim
weighs his/her options and the disadvantages of each one as well as the
advantages and disadvantages of staying in the relationship. It is during
this phase that the victim decides that maybe they should open up to
someone about the abuse.
Preparation means that the victim has made the decision to leave and is
now actively making plans to do so. This phase includes talking to family,
friends, hotlines, counsellors and putting things in place for leaving. Finding
a new, safe place to stay, a source of income, a job, and the details of how
to actually get out of the house. Research during this stage has shown
that what the supporters need to do is:
• Affirm the abuse is real --- It is important to let the victim know that they
are not crazy and the abuse is real and unacceptable.
• Inform victims of local resources --- Regardless of the family support,
some victims need access to an environment of professionals or an envi-
ronment of people that have been through what they have.
• Educate victims on effects of abuse --- Show victims what the abuse
has done to him/her and his/her children, help him/her to visualise a
brighter future without abuse, show him/her the potential.
• Documentation of injuries --- This is particularly for medical personnel. It
is very important to keep proper records of all injuries.
The action stage is when the plan is put into effect and the victim leaves
the abusive relationship. This stage is usually triggered when the abuse is
extended toward a child, done in front of a child, or when the victim is con-
fident in the plan made and the available resources. Once the victim has
left the abuse, he/she moves in to the maintenance stage, which as it im-
plies means not reverting to old ways and forging ahead with new life.
All victims need support to succeed, but, most importantly, strength of
mind. Relapse can occur and frequently does at any stage in the process,
but most commonly at the action stage. Hopefully with this knowledge in
mind, all of us, victims and supporters alike, can work together to break
the cycle of domestic violence.
By Dr Makini McGuire
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