by Kimani Parke – GrenCHAP

It is very easy to sit at the sidelines and wonder why they stay. It’s even easier to say “they’re stupid” or “that could never be me.” Understand this — domestic violence seldom begins the way it ends. Abusers have mastered the art of manipulation, dominance, and psychological imprisonment.

Often, a victim is unaware that she or he is a victim; to find solace, they convince themselves that this is life. After months or years of emotional, mental, and physical torment, there is no longer individualism. Self-esteem, self-worth and self-importance are now alien; they are empty shells that need rebuilding from the bottom up. Domestic abuse is present in heterosexual and same-sex relationships, and there are female victims as well as male victims. However, one fundamental fact remains: to go from victimization to survivorship, a person needs support.

It takes a lot of perseverance and compassion to emotionally support persons caught in domestic abuse situations; the key is to never give up on them. Your voice may be the only one of hope, your listening ear may be the only sense of comfort, and your never-failing presence may be their source of strength.

As a DV survivor, I experienced what it was like to be diminished into nothing. I went from a beautiful, confident over-achiever, to someone that sought validation for the way I spoke, to how I wore my hair. I lost myself; I blamed myself for every beating and every tongue-lashing. When given my first opportunity to escape, I did — but I went back. It’s almost like I was addicted to my own abuse.

I am a survivor today, because a group of people never gave up. They listened to my cries, they offered words of support and encouragement. They were always there, though never forcefully; non-judgmental at best. They walked that thorn-filled road with me, and from their unwavering support I drew strength. On the day that I felt I was ready to walk away, these same rocks banded together and came to my aid — they rescued me. I relinquished my victim status and now wear the crown of a survivor, because a few good people decided that they were not giving up on me.

It can be challenging watching someone you love deteriorate at the hands of the person they love, but the most essential thing you can do is remain resolute. Don’t criticize; instead, empathize. Don’t try to be a saviour; instead, provide support. Don’t emasculate our male victims; instead, empower them. Surviving domestic violence provides persons with endless possibilities as though their life has been renewed. He/she was torn down, and is now given the opportunity to start life again. For that, they will forever be grateful, and you have now understood the real meaning of being your sister’s/brother’s keeper.

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