Domestic violence damage can be devastating and long-lasting
The impact of domestic violence is much more than the visible physical signs such as bruises or broken bones, says the executive director of the Comox Valley Transition Society.
"It's so varied, but ultimately, it damages somebody's soul, their self-esteem and confidence," Heather Ney said recently as part of the Purple ribbon campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence.
"It impacts their ability to parent effectively," Ney continued. "It impacts the workplace in productivity. It impacts women's mental and physical health. It's far more than the physical bruises for sure."
Ney emphasized that it is not easy for women to leave abusive relationships.
"Everyone says 'just go,' but there's love there sometimes or there's fear of leaving," she said. "Often when there's an attempt to leave, the risk is highest because the violent partner is angry.
"Often, it is the precipitator to homelessness for women. They have to get out of that situation. It's getting so desperate that you go, but you have nowhere to go. Often, leaving is the most risky time for someone. Women are afraid to take that risk."
Violent words and actions have far-reaching effects, and children who witness abuse are impacted in many ways.
Girls will often internalize it, while boys will act out, explained Ney.
"It impacts their learning, behaviour and confidence," she said. "There's the whole cycle of violence. Kids model that.
"Boys become aggressive, and girls think that's normal. Later, they get into relationships, and they take it because that's what they saw."
Children who witness abuse can have problems in school, according to Diana Paige, a children's counsellor at the Comox Valley Transition Society.
"Sometimes it's hard to concentrate because when class is quiet, they start to remember the fight the night before," she said, noting children can become distracted by their thoughts. "They're easily triggered, either being afraid because someone lost their temper or losing their temper, extreme or sudden changes."
As they grow older, they might not necessarily choose healthy ways of being in healthy relationships, added Paige.
One thing to remember about violence is that it doesn't have any cultural or economic barriers at all, noted Ney.
"It can happen in anybody's family," she said.
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The Comox Valley Transition Society offers a variety of programs for women who have experienced abuse in relationships and for their children.
• Lilli House, a safe shelter for women who have experienced abuse in relationships and for their children;
• A 24-hour crisis line at 250-338-1227;
• Women's counselling;
• "Children Who Witness Abuse" counselling;
• Detox and supportive recovery.
• Sexual assault support and referrals;
• Safe shelter;
• Emotional support;
• Food, clothing and transportation;
• Legal, medical and financial advocacy;
• Individual support and group counselling for older women;
• Community prevention, awareness and education workshops;
• Safety planning.
All services are free of charge, and they are confidential and wheelchair-accessible.
For more information, visit www.cvts.ca or call 250-897-0511.