After the release of my book, The End of Abuse, I felt led to interview certain individuals who had either experienced abuse and been healed from the trauma; or were in the occupation of caring for abuse victims one way or the other.
The reason is, people truly are in need of answers; and it’s my prayer that this interview helps point many in the right direction to finding help and lasting freedom.
Baaba Dadzie is a friend and clinical psychology intern at LEKMA Hospital. Without talking much, here is the interview:
- 1) Do victims of abuse necessarily need counseling?
The effects of abuse are far reaching, usually more than the victims let on. It’s imperative that abuse survivors (and I choose to say survivor rather than victim because it’s more empowering) understand that they are not responsible for the abuse they experience. Victims, once they leave abusive environments, are prone to blaming themselves and believing that the distressing event was their fault in one way or another. Therapy helps the survivor come to an understanding that while they may have been unable to leave the distressing event (immediately), what happened was not their fault. Counselling is a brief treatment that focuses on behavior patterns; psychotherapy is a brilliant avenue that helps clients conceptualize the experiences they’ve had; some abuse survivors may not immediately recognize what they’ve experienced as abusive and once they do, there is often a whirlwind of emotions they have to work through. It’s also important to remember that a person’s response to current events is often coloured by their previous experiences. Pyschotherapy is helpful guiding clients with conceptualizing their experiences and helping them work through the emotions associated with the experience. Going through psychotherapy ensures that as many of those emotions are resolved and not used to interpret future events negatively.
- 2) What’s the best way of dealing with trauma from an abusive experience?
Talking about the abusive experience is a major step in the healing process. However, this might be challenging because abuse survivors often have the sense that nobody understands them. It’s important to identify a non judgmental environment or person who understands the experience and can listen to you describe it as much as you need to, to help you come to terms with it. As mentioned, psychotherapy is a great way to achieve this; it could be on an individual basis or with a support group. Journaling is an equally progressive way of “sharing” what happened. A residual feeling of abuse is a deep sense of loss; to be specific, a sense of loss/lack of control. Survivors may find it easier or may often see themselves in situations where friends and close relations attempt to make decisions for them/tell them what to do. It is important that they retrain themselves to make decisions about their life and learn to trust their judgment again. It starts with making decisions about the very small things. Survivors are also encouraged to put a bit of effort into (re) building relationships; healthy ones, as abusive experiences usually have survivors discontinuing relationships that would have been otherwise useful to them. As people close to the survivor, we need to be a lending hand and communicate to the survivor that our doors are open to them, without forcing our opinions.
- 3) What mental health issues can arise from an abusive situation and what steps can victims take to find help and solutions?
Abusive experiences generally create a sense of sadness, helplessness and loneliness. There might even be an overwhelming sense of guilt. When left unaddressed, survivors become susceptible to depression. Another mental health difficulty that abuse survivors often deal with is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (especially when the experience is not addressed), where survivors experience nightmares, flashbacks, upsetting thoughts about the experience and difficulty sleeping, to mention a few. Survivors may equally experience panic attacks and overwhelming anxiety, particularly in relation to reliving/revisiting the experience.
That being said, if an individual is predisposed to any mental health problem, an abusive experience might be the catalyst that leads to the presentation/manifestation of the mental health problem.
Psychotherapy, particularly Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing are evidence based treatments often used. Depending on the severity of the survivor’s symptoms, psychiatric medication may be recommended.
Overcoming the effects of an abusive experience can be difficult and overwhelming for the survivor; meaningful work can be done only when the survivor is ready.
Thanks for reading, do drop a comment if you have any or send an email.