Our home is meant to be our safe haven – a place where we find comfort and can close the door on all the evils in this world. Home is the place we long for when we’re feeling sad, sick or afraid. As soon as we unlock the door and step inside to be greeted by the familiar smells, sounds and sights that speak to our heart, the stress of the day melts away and we can simply be. If you’re fortunate enough, these are the feelings the term “home” will evoke in you.
Unfortunately, not everyone can call home their safe place. For some people, home equals hell. People who share their homes with abusive partners or family members, are stripped off the one place they should be able to feel safe in. Instead of feeling relief and safety upon entering their home, they feel absolute dread and anxiety. In the most common cases, domestic violence isn’t an every-day occurrence but a pattern or a cycle of abuse. Heavy periods of emotional and physical abuse are often followed by a few days, weeks or even months of calm, usually brought on by the abuser’s short-lived sense of guilt. The unpredictability of these patterns can cause survivors to be constantly walking on egg-shells in a state of heightened anxiety for fear of the next incident.
Knowing When It’s Time to Get Out
For those who have never dealt with domestic violence or sexual abuse, the question as to whether it is time to leave or not may seem redundant. If your husband beats you, you leave; if your father is abusing you, you leave; if your ex-partner threatens your children, you leave – it should be as simple as that, right? It rarely is. The psychological effects of abuse are complex and, on top of that, you will never know what might have caused a woman to stay in an abusive situation. Perhaps her children or her own life was threatened; maybe she is experiencing severe financial hardship as part of the abuse and worries she might not be able to stand on her own two feet, let alone take care of her children. Abuse has a way of affecting a survivor’s self-confidence in a most frightening manner, leaving them to doubt themselves and every decision they face.
Whatever a survivor’s reasons for having stayed in the abusive situation for as long as they have, in cases of emergency, you could be saving your life – and the life of your children – by contacting the police or a designated help center. The Scottish Women’s Aid twenty-four-hour help line is open for women, children and young people trapped in situations of domestic abuse and they can advise you on your legal and protection rights. They can talk you through the procedures of filing a report with authorities or can contact them on your behalf. They offer guidance every step of the way: from the moment you call them, to the moment you are ready to start your healing journey. They will explain all the legal and medical procedures to you in a calm, non-judgmental and non-binding manner and can refer you to the appropriate organisations dealing with temporary housing to get you set up for a new start.
Know Your Rights & Protect Yourself from Future Incidents
Without access to legal information or support regarding legal rights, it can be even more daunting for a survivor to take the first steps towards getting out of an abusive home situation. The fear of unknown procedures can be just as strong as the fear of the abuser, specifically when emotional blackmail has been at play – for example, when the abuser threatens to harm the survivor, or their children should they as much as attempt to call the police. The Scottish Women’s Aid can talk you through everything you need to know about your rights to legal protection to help you make an informed decision. Often, gaining a better understanding of these procedures can lessen the anxiety surrounding a possible report or arrest immensely.
If the abuse has been ongoing, authorities highly recommend gathering as much evidence as possible to build a criminal case against the abuser. This could include photographic evidence of injuries, bruises, etc., a secret diary detailing dates and events, nanny cams and saving any e-mails, texts or whatsapps of a threatening, incriminating nature. You have every right to make an abusive partner leave your home or apply for temporary housing yourself, and the Scottish Women’s Aid can assist you in making those arrangements.