Domestic Violence Results In Trauma But You Can Heal From the Pain
Addiction & Trauma Specialist Audrey Hope provides tools and practical solutions to help clients extinguish negative patterns and beliefs so everyone can survive and thrive to a bright future.
If you suddenly lose a loved one, survive a horrible accident or try to divorce an abuser who physically, mentally, emotionally and financially hurting you, you are going to experience some form of trauma. What kind of trauma depends on the circumstances surrounding the events unfolding. While trauma equates to pain, the good news is, the agony you are feeling is curable if you have the right professional guiding, you through the healing process. Take for example, Domestic Violence since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, approximately ten-million people are the victims of some form of cruelty by an intimate partner such as a spouse. Depending on the level of mistreatment the abuser inflicts on their target, the victim may find themselves suffering from exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, and numbness, which is not only common but can lead to other serious medical conditions. One of the lines from Dua Lipa’s song, “Don’t Start Now,” goes, “though it took some time to survive you, I’m better on the other side. I’m all good already, so moved on its scary I’m not where you left me at all.” This is where you need to build back better by talking to a specialist who can help you repair the damage your abuser caused. Audrey Hope is a Certified Addiction/Trauma Counselor and Resident Addiction Specialist (RAS) who works at renowned rehabilitation treatment center, Seasons in Malibu, California. In addition to her work there, Audrey also runs a private practice and hosts, YouTube advice show “Hope For Relationships.” Audrey message for anyone suffering at the hands of another is, recovery is 100-percent possible.
Ilyssa Panitz: Why is Domestic Violence a form of trauma?
Audrey Hope: Trauma is, at its root, a soul wound, a heightened dramatic tear that damages the internal self. If left hidden, denied, or untreated, it will come out unexpectedly to cause havoc on a normal life with symptoms of anxiety, illness, fear, and other psychological and physical maladies. Trauma is like being exposed to a bomb, and then pretending it didn’t happen as one tries to cope with life. We as human beings try to survive what is thrown at us, to squash the pain down, to minimize it, to deny it, to put it in a safe box, and never again think of it. But like a closet that gets overstuffed, the energy erupts when we cannot store it any longer.
Trauma is exposure to horrible events/situations/persons who overwhelm us and our ability to cope. The painful experiences are a threat to one’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The effect is dramatic and leaves one with intense feelings of fear and loss of control, and hopelessness. A person changes deeply from trauma so they see the world, themselves, and others with damaged eyes. The bottom line is the root of trauma is on a spiritual level and thus we are divided against ourselves. This loss of self makes us a slave to pain. The healing must involve a re-connection and a re-alignment to one’s power.
Domestic Violence is a form of trauma because the abusive behavior that includes acts of violence, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse lingers in the body, mind, and soul for a lifetime if left untreated. It occurs primarily by men against women, but also in same sex relationships and against children and other vulnerable individuals. Trauma has no favorites — it can happen to anyone regardless of one’s religion, culture, sexuality, gender, race, age, or socioeconomic status.
Ilyssa Panitz: How do you define Domestic Violence?
Audrey Hope: Domestic Violence is about an unequal power dynamic in a relationship, where one partner wants to maintain power over the other. The weapons used to gain control are manipulation, humiliation, isolation, intimidation, and threats of wounding, and even killing. Weapons are used to deny one’s freedom, through use of name calling, limiting finances, turning kids against you, using sex as a weapon and any other tools to get you confused, divided, and blaming yourself. The real game is power and when a person doubts themselves, and obeys without question, it is difficult to leave a relationship or believe you can survive without them.
The most lethal of tools to “own a person” is a spiritual one: to “twist” the victim into leaving themselves. They can be told, for example, that the wall is red (when in reality it is white) and with enough coaxing and brainwashing, one questions oneself and agrees that the wall is red. I call this a “double crime,” because it is bad enough to be mistreated and put down, but the bigger problem is what we do to ourselves because of it. This tactic of self-doubt is dangerous because one begins to give their energy to another person and to stop believing in who they are. One becomes a slave, a servant, or a possession and loses the ability to think for themselves. A perpetrator makes the victim feel worthless and crazy. The self-esteem is drained out and one begins to need the other person. In energy medicine, we give our energy to another, or they take it and one is depleted.
In most matters of trauma, we try to shut down the pain and the reality of the pain. This is a human survival response that we all have so we can try to go on living. We try to shield the self, to never talk about it, and to keep its secrets for fear of reliving the horrors. Because we don’t ever want to feel the pain again, we become frozen to our emotions. This hiding of the trauma in our bodies has dangerous repercussions that later takes the form of illness, depression, fear, and anxiety. The body becomes a master at keeping it tucked away.
Ilyssa Panitz: There are three main types of traumas: Acute, Chronic, or Complex. Can you explain the difference of each one?
Audrey Hope: Acute trauma is when you are exposed to a single distressing event such as an accident or a natural disaster and the event is extreme enough that it threatens the person’s emotional or physical security. The event has lasting effects and can take the form of panic and aggression.
Complex trauma is when someone is exposed to traumatic painful events or experiences. The events are within the context of relationships. It includes individuals who have been victims of abuse in childhood, family disputes, and other ongoing repetitive situations. One is continuously exposed to domestic violence including emotional, physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse. This can refer to someone who sees another having a traumatic experience, such as a child witnessing their mother being abused repeatedly. This trauma has a long-term impact on one’s life. People who experience complex trauma may develop PTSD and other mental health problems and disorders.
Chronic trauma is when one is exposed to multiple, long term or prolonged traumatic events over an extended period of time. This can come from sexual abuse, domestic violence, bullying, illness, or even war. The symptoms often appear after a long time, even years after the event and manifests as anxiety, flashbacks, and unstable relationships.
Ilyssa Panitz: Let’s take this one step further. Some examples of specific types of traumas are: bullying, community violence, complex trauma, medical trauma and physical abuse. When it comes to “Domestic Violence” how do these impact the victim mentally, emotionally, physically and take a tool on their overall health?
Audrey Hope: Often the root of all pain and problems can be tracked to unhealed trauma in one’s life. It will take on other symptoms and issues and if left unexplored, it can cause dangerous side effects to one’s life. If someone wants to heal deeply without just taking medications and putting a band-aid on the pain, one must work with an expert healer to track the trauma through the timeline of one’s life. We hold horrible movies of truth in the hidden closet of our childhood, and we put a strong lock and key on it. “Do not enter,” it says. We push pain so far down into the cave of the unconscious that we don’t even remember that it happened. We even fool ourselves. But the soul always knows the truth.
Ilyssa Panitz: Can victims of Domestic Violence survive and thrive from a bad situation?
Audrey Hope: We as human beings have an amazing capacity to survive, and we do what we must to make it through. That is until there is a wake-up call, a dramatic alarm to our system that tells us we must search deeper into what is going on. Trauma can play havoc on the mind, body, and soul of a person to corrode their health and shorten their lifespan. From the understanding of energy medicine, it may look like a person suffers from depression, anxiety and/or drug abuse, but there is an emotional component, a traumatic piece that is the source of suffering.
Ilyssa Panitz: Can being the victim of domestic violence have a long-term impact on a person’s health?
Audrey Hope: Domestic Violence has long term consequences including depression, PTSD, substance abuse, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. A subject that needs more investigation is the effect of domestic violence on the brain and its behavior. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) can cause loss of consciousness, from head injuries that result in traumatic brain injury, altering the brain function, cognitive impairment, and mental health disorders. The body’s system of self-preservation gets stuck on high alert with the state of fear persisting long after the immediate danger passes. When trauma occurs repeatedly, cortisol, the hormone released during the time of stress, multiplies. This hormone activates the amygdala, the areas in the brain that are responsible for emotional behavior and causes more cortisol to be released. The survivor is in a constant state of hyper-arousal or hyper-arousal when they want to withdraw or shut down. The increased cortisol alerts the brain to threats that may not ever happen, but one is always acting as if it is. A person freezes and is unable to live a normal life.
Ilyssa Panitz: What is Spiritual Therapy?
Audrey Hope: Spiritual therapy, a modality that helps a person to change their state and to transform the old self into the new, is very successful for the treatment of trauma. For over 20-years, I have been incorporating soul and energy work to supply a missing piece in healing and to go beyond the rational mind and traditional boundaries of therapy to transform a person’s life. Spiritual healing involves realigning with the authentic self, and never letting anyone or anything affect one’s inborn light. In this type of healing, one does a soul retrieval to call back and reboot the energy that has been taken. The goal is self-love and to raise the light frequency of the body, and to never abandon oneself ever again.
Ilyssa Panitz: Why is it so difficult for the victim to break-away from their abuser?
Audrey Hope: A victim of abuse finds it hard to leave because they are brainwashed into believing they are worthless, that they are nothing without the abuser and they will “die” without them. Their sense of self and self-worth did not ground in childhood, so they manifested issues that they needed to learn. By law of attraction, we find our lessons through our relationships. Their soul wound that got established at a young age has been playing out through this abuse. The do-nut hole of need was filled by the outside source: the abuser. Victims of abuse don’t even know they are abused, or they find ways to deny the reality of it. They are so lost within themselves and their pain that they make deals and excuses that allow them to stay. It is like a math relationship equation. He is only bad 20 percent of the time, then the other 80 percent I can live with. The healing has to come from no more deals and living in the 100-percent of being treated well. When abuse happens, it is often followed by the abuser doing something nice, or promising that they will never do it again. It can be dangerous to leave. A startling statistic is that women are 30-times more likely to be killed in the weeks after leaving and people in these kinds of abusive relationships attempt to leave as many as seven times before it sticks. The victim feels it is their fault as the abuser twists what is true and turns things around till the victim believes it. Women are experts at feeling bad about themselves, feeling responsible, that things are their fault and that they can fix or change the person. There is a fear of being alone or failing in the relationship. They are entwined in relationships with family, kids, and sharing a life. Society teaches us all to save a marriage at any cost, and in some cultures, divorce is looked upon as a disgrace. And then there’s the finances. Unless a woman learns to completely take care of her financial needs, she will be a slave to her relationship.
Ilyssa Panitz: Is there a cycle of abuse?
Audrey Hope: Abuse is a learned behavior. The best prophecy for becoming a victim later in life is if you grew up living with it. One must track and map and solve the puzzle in order to understand why it happens. If you witnessed abuse as a child, it has long term negative effects. We attract home and what feels natural to us, even if it is painful. This is because at least it is familiar. With the right healing, these cycles can be broken.
The cycle of violence has phases: the honeymoon phase, when everything seems rosy, then the problem phase, and then the violent phase. The partner regrets and feels guilty after inflicting the violence and promises to change and then the circle starts all over, with the honeymoon stage beginning again. It is during the “good phase” where one in an abusive relationship hopes there is change. The loving gesture in this in-between cycle makes it difficult to leave. The victim will feel confused, tired, anxious, and like they are going crazy being on this constant merry-go-round.
Ilyssa Panitz: How can a person stop this cycle of abuse and leave?
Audrey Hope: The most important point to stop the cycle of abuse is for the person to know that they are abused and to call it out and name it as such. The reality must be seen in the full light of day. The victim must digest the truth no matter how painful. This is the beginning of healing. She/he must ask these questions: “Do I believe I deserve to be mistreated and hurt? Can I stop blaming myself and feeling helpless?” The other questions about the partner must be asked: “Does my partner treat me badly? Does he hurt and threaten me? Do I want to stay in this?” The goal must be to regain a sense of self and power. A plan must be put in place to begin the process necessary to escape the abuse. Where can you go? Where can there be help and support? What documents and important papers do I need? What can I do about finances? One must plan a safe route of exit and to keep the goal of self-love and freedom for a new life as the fuel to get moving.
Ilyssa Panitz: How can a person start to heal?
Audrey Hope: The hope of healing is a spiritual solution: to reclaim one’s power and to again become the authentic self. This is the self that is beyond the trauma and is one’s natural birth right. A person begins to heal when they understand that no one can take your power, and when they understand who we really are multidimensional light beings with power to heal ourselves and others. People and circumstances can hurt you, but they can’t take what is ultimately yours, which is your soul and your divine fire within.
Ilyssa Panitz: You talk about having an “a-ha” moment. How does a Domestic Violence victim know when they have their “a-ha” moment?
Audrey Hope: All healing involves the journey back to self. A talented alchemist, healer, or therapist will lead one back to their original self. And in this higher exploration, the person has a wake-up call with pain and trauma and then moves to turning the light bulbs back on (“Oh, this is why it happened? Oh, this is what I was supposed to learn? Oh, I see.”) This is the deeper “aha moment” that is life-altering. When trauma doesn’t destroy you, it makes you stronger, like going from crucifixion to resurrection. This is the alchemy of our lives, to make base metal into gold, and to triumph over the challenges of life. A toxic relationship is the play that brings us to our knees and starts the journey back to ourselves. It can inspire others to do the same if you allow the eyes to see through a higher lens.
- If you or someone you know is the victim of “Domestic Violence,” please call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at: 1–800–799–7233. All calls are confidential!