When I was younger, I was involved in an abusive marriage. My husband used to beat me. I lived in fear for my life and therefore did not tell my family or friends. Domestic violence has been a secret that I have carried for many years. Even today, nobody knows why I left this man and the country that we lived in. I felt at the time that I had no choice but to run and I left suddenly without saying goodbye to a lot of people.
After a long struggle to rebuild my life, I have finally met a good man who I am in love with. This is my first serious relationship since my ex-husband. I feel very safe and happy, however, as we have become closer I have begun to have some flashbacks about some of the violent experiences of my past. I am finding it difficult at times to cope with my emotions. My new partner senses something is wrong, but I feel reluctant to tell him about what I am going through. I worry that he might view me differently or even leave when he finds out my secret of past abuse.
I have also found myself questioning whether I should tell my family and friends about what happened. As I look back, I can see now that I shut myself down from some very important relationships in order to survive. I feel very sad and disappointed in myself, somehow I feel I did not handle the situation as well as I should have.
How do I move forwards?
I am so very glad to hear that you have rebuilt your life and that you have found a sense of what it is to feel not only love, but security and happiness.
It reads as though you wish to further heal and attain a sense of peace with the pain and trauma of your past. You have endured a life that was controlled, a life that was bound by constant fear and terror. As such, it is so important to remind yourself daily that what happened to you was not your fault. You are not in any way to blame. You did not deserve this. Often when we repress traumatic experiences, the secrecy becomes overwhelming and it can manifest itself in numerous ways. Given the flashbacks that you have begun to experience, you may well be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. As alarming as this feels, know that this is a common occurrence for people that have experienced physical, emotional and sexual assault.
You may also have experienced bouts of depression, anxiety, low self-worth and other mental health concerns over the years. Psychotherapy and counselling sessions can support you through a process of recovery and provide you with the tools to cope and to attain a sense of control over your emotions and flashbacks. Therapy may also be a platform to assist you with any issues that are arising presently, with regards to your new relationship.
Reaching out to your new partner, to your family members and friends will be a key stage of the healing process, but it must be done in your own time, when you feel ready. Any fear that the people you love will be disapproving or judgemental is a natural feeling to have, however it is irrational and unjust. You have a right to feel sad and disappointed about what happened to you, yet remember that there is no shame in your experience Davina. The only person that should bare shame and be on the receiving end of all disapproval and judgement is your ex-husband.
You handled the situation in the best way that you could. You were in fear for your life and you did what you had to do in order to survive. Your loved ones will understand in time that you had no other choice but to leave and most likely acted with concern for their safety as well as your own. Have patience and allow further time for this transitional period.
Keep in mind that your main priority here, is the relationship that you have with yourself. You deserve the absolute best moving forwards, so take good care to prioritise your health and well-being. You are still healing and as you continue to recover, be proud of the courage that you have demonstrated so far. Trust in yourself and do not forget for one moment, that you are a survivor. You are a strong, resilient and courageous woman with a bright and positive future ahead of you.
Take good care,
*”Domestic violence” includes any of the following acts committed by a person against his spouse, a child of his spouse or another person living under the same roof:-
- wilfully causing or attempting to cause physical injury;
- wilfully or knowingly placing or attempting to place the spouse or the other person in fear of physical injury to himself or to one of his children;
- intimidation, harassment, ill-treatment, brutality or cruelty;
- compelling the spouse or the other person by force or threat to engage in any conduct or act, sexual or otherwise, from which the spouse or the other person has the right to abstain;
- confining or detaining the spouse or the other person, against his will;
- harming a child of the spouse; and
- causing or attempting to cause damage to the spouse’s or the other person’s property;
Recourse for victims of domestic violence
- The Protection from Domestic Violence Act provides that any person who has been the victim of an act of domestic violence and who reasonably believes that there is likely to commit any further act of domestic violence against him/her, may apply to the Court for a protection order restraining the respondent from engaging in any conduct which may constitute an act of domestic violence and ordering him to be of good behaviour towards the applicant;
- In line with one of the UN recommendations that States should set up appropriate mechanisms to implement policies and programmes, the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare has set up the Family Welfare Protection Unit. Victims of Domestic Violence can initiate the procedures for a protection order through the Family Welfare Protection Unit where there will be officers from the Ministry that will assist the victims from taking a statement, swearing in an affidavit and assistance in court;
- Victims of Domestic Violence also should go to the nearest Police Station so that he/she can give a statement;
- It has to be pointed out that a protection order application can also be initiated by retaining the services of an attorney-at-law and a barrister-at-law.
* Taken from the Mauritian Counsel website.
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