Secondary Trauma & Survivorship
After leaving a domestic violence relationship, it is common for a survivor to take on a supportive role to others in abusive relationships. This is understandable. The survivor knows how much better life can be than it is when dealing with an abuser and feels great compassion for those still victims to active abuse. The survivor may volunteer at a local shelter or hotline, or they may provide emotional support for a family member, friend, coworker, or acquaintance in an abusive relationship.
One of the leading reasons a person stays in a relationship with an abuser is lack of awareness of support available. Once such a victim discovers this help and finds success in leaving their abuser, the survivor that emerges often feels a sense of enthusiastic duty to bring the good news of support to those who still suffer without it.
Not only can taking on another person’s relationship problems complicate the situation a victim has with their abuser, it can also bring negative consequences for the one trying to help.
Ways A Supporter Can Be Harmed By Trying To Help An Abuse Victim
Those Most At-Risk. . .
Hints You May Be Experiencing Harm As A Helper
Use this PROQOL pdf to rate your likelihood of experiencing compassion fatigue.
How to Help Yourself
The answer to any of the harmful effects of supporting a domestic violence victim is self-care. Check out previous posts on self-care here and here. Depending on the situation, this self care may include making the decision to limit contact with domestic violence victims. This may inspire feeling of guilt or selfishness, but as Joyful Heart Foundation founder, Mariska Hargitay points out: “It’s a proven fact that we hold on to trauma. How can somebody who’s holding so much trauma be of service to someone else if they’re full up? You’ve got to empty the glass.”
Have you overextended yourself helping others experiencing domestic violence? Tell me how you realized what was going on and what decisions that realization led you to. Your comments below can help others confronting a similar situation. Thank you!
Rebecca encourages survivors of domestic to speak about their experiences and to lean on each other for support.