Community Domestic Violence and what it is.
This page will be about community violence. As a survivor, I feel it is important to raise awareness on this not so well known issue, as it is usually vulnerable people such as single parents, children, people with mental ill health who suffer the most.
- What is community violence ?
- A cry for help.
- Difficult to deal with, especially for vulnerable people and those with children and why vulnerable people fear calling the police.
- Complicated issue
- A nasty breakdown in mental health.
- A happy ending, a new chapter
- Learning to live a normal life again.
What is community violence ?
Community Violence is different to 'Domestic Violence,' in the sense that it happens in the community, rather than a partner or family which is 'Domestic Violence.
It can take place out an about, in the same block of flats, in your home or on the doorstep of your home. It can be caused from both people you may know or people you don't know.
In my case, the kind of violence I experienced took place in my home and around my home. I have been a victim of domestic violence too, but in my case, the worse form I experienced was from people within my community.
Community violence can include being physically beaten, raped, broken into, mental abuse, and purposefully being made to feel uncomfortable in your own home. I experienced all these things, including break ins and people deliberately forcing their way into my home, knowing that I did not want them there.
Please take note, community violence just like domestic violence can also affect men. In my opinion, while there are places out there that do help men. Men are still widely unseen and heard when it comes to violence. I on the other hand have witnessed it happen to both. If a man tells you he is experiencing violence, never ignore this. The consequences for men are just as great as they are for women.
A cry for help.
I often cried for help on more than one occasion as I was very scared and I had children. However it nearly always went unheard. The way my cry was dealt with, was to give me more to help me do up my home for the children. While this was helpful in some respects, it does not make the problem go away.
Often, the people who were supposed to help me came out and found people at my home. However the simple answer from them was 'do not let them in.' There needs to be more awareness of the threats and bullying that happens with community domestic violence. I did not just 'let them in.' They forced their way in, and as I was being threatened with all kinds of different actions including murder, I was scared to say no and very scared to be assertive.
Please be aware, when dealing with these cases. People experiencing it are not purposefully putting themselves at fault. They are often very scared and very vulnerable, more so if they have children. It would have been common sense if the authority dealing with this, had got me feeling safe in a safe place before trying to find out what happened. It is not very good safeguarding, trying to play the 'blame game' and find out what has happened in the same place. The people doing this will and do come back, after the authorities and the police leave.
Difficult to deal with, especially for vulnerable people and those with children and why vulnerable people fear calling the police.
Community violence is much harder to deal with than Domestic Violence. It is almost never caused by just one person, there is usually a gang. For example: A gang of people may resort to kicking or banging on your door until you open it, if you don't, they then may attempt to threaten you or damage your door until it opens. In this circumstance, I called the police. In effect, this made things worse, and after the police left. I found myself assaulted and from then on the violence did get worse,and I often found myself accused of 'letting them in' which I did not, they forced their way in after they assaulted me.
This behaviour puts vulnerable people, parents (who can be vulnerable for various reasons), and children at risk of severe harm. I feel the need here, to stress strongly, that people who are helping victims, take notice of this. If the people committing the offence are not dealt with appropriately, it puts the victim at further risk of assault after local authorities have left. Even if the people committing the crime have been cautioned, this can and does influence them to cause further harm. In a case like this, the children's safety is paramount as is the safety of the parents. Something more needs to be done to protect them, and more support is needed to help these families stay safe.
One problem I witnessed in my experience, is that because community violence can be brought on by many people within the community. It makes it very difficult for local authorities to see what is going on. The victim may also be confused by fear, and may be traumatized to a point where she cannot be clear about what has happened. In this case one needs to:
1. Be careful about making assumptions. The victim may have taken the wrong action
through a desperate attempt to protect themselves and/or their children, without having the capacity to think about the consequences.
2. Never blame the victim. It is not always their fault! No body asks to be treated in such a way. They are scared and if there are children, both them and the parents will be scared.
3. Do not assume that once the local authorities leave, the victim will be safe. People who cause community violence are crafty. They will act as if nothing happened, blame the victim, wait for the police to leave and things to calm, then come back and the whole thing will start again.
4. Bearing the above in mind, the victim and the children must be safe. Whether you believe them or not, is not an option. If you are observant and look at the victim, around the home and bear in mind what is happening, you will realize leaving them there, puts them at risk, Even if the problem appears to be calm.
5. Local Councils should also be vigilant, they have a duty to make sure their tenants are safe, and should intervene appropriately when a tenant is at serious risk of harm and/or children are involved. It is not appropriate to wait until the tenant has been put in extreme danger, before getting them to safety. In my case, had the councils listened earlier, me and my children would have been safer, and even more so had I not been lied to about the area's crime rate where I was moved to.
A nasty breakdown in mental health.
I and my family including my children suffered much trauma in the aftermath of all this. I became scared of most adults, and at one point I was very submissive and scared to be assertive and put in appropriate boundaries for my family.
My eventual diagnosis was borderline personality disorder with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This made child care extremely hard, and even looking after my children's bare needs was very difficult, make alone the emotional needs.
The result was, I completely shut down. I stopped eating properly, started self harming, became a severe gambling addict which was impulsively used to take the stress away. I pushed every single person away, for fear of getting hurt.
The sad thing was, I didn't have the ability to recognize that when the trauma came out, it came out through flashbacks, which caused a pattern of learned behaviour. I ended up acting out the behaviours I had learned from the bullies to protect myself. This was because when the trauma came out (smashing glass, the beatings, the break ins etc.), I was reliving the whole experience. It really broke me down, because I had and still have more love for my family than anyone could ever know. Eventually my children had to be looked after by other people while I attempted to get well
A happy ending, a new chapter
There is a happy ending to this chapter in my life. I no longer have the personality disorder. I was able to recover, using dialectal behaviour therapy which uses the five senses which are sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and various cognitive methods.
The therapy retaught me who I was and I learned many assertion and accepting techniques whilst doing this. I did have some relaxation issues, particularly in groups because the flash backs always came back in those sessions.
Today, I still have anxiety and depression. However my doctor is a very good doctor and a very good listener. So, with medication and talking to the doctor, I am making good progress here.
I can now safely be alone, while my husband works. I do not obsess myself with housework like I used to do, though I have a routine.
Learning to live a normal life again.
With community domestic violence, a person suffers many attacks which can come from many different people. Often, these attacks come from strangers who live in the area, many of who are already known offenders.
Vulnerable people, usually single parents and people with disabilities are at most risk. However contrary to popular belief, it is not always a 'lack of understanding' what causes this problem. Some times it is people who simply get a thrill from getting into trouble. These people are influenced by vulnerability, because they know that these people will be scared to call the police.
This kind of violence causes very severe trauma. A person can find it very difficult to feel safe and get back on their feet for a long time. I learned to live a normal life by taking small steps. The hardest, was accepting what I had truly been through, when no body could understand it. However, once I got through this, it got easier. A person may find they go through stages of denial at this stage, so talking in their own time, is essential. Being pushed to talk, only made the truth harder to accept myself, as did having the problem constantly pointed out to me.
Going out and feeling safe was difficult. At this stage being in crowds would make me over anxious, and I was constantly looking behind my back, checking that I was not being followed. I got over this, by taking short walks in quiet areas where there was people but not overcrowded.
Making friends and building relationships are hard after community violence. I in fact avoided it for a while, and when I was ready I started small. Just saying hello out in the community, and short conversations about interesting topics helped with just one person, then two and so on. This took me many years and I still occasionally panic now, but I can now enjoy a coffee in a café with more than one friend.
Courses are brilliant for self esteem. I do child protection, children's disabilities, mental health, and Sociology. I started with a few mooc on the web, and built my way up to more professional courses. My self esteem has come up wonders!
Scenery, sitting by a stream with lots of scented flowers, the sea side (my favourite) and colour in my home helped me too! My home was very bland, now I've taken up the hobby of learning to decorate, it is getting colourful and it has a calm impact on me. Calm colours, blues, sunset, peaches mixed with light colours, pale yellow, peach, pastel pinks are all good. Also add a beautiful rainbow of flowers to your desk it is good for the soul.
It is very hard to think life can be normal after many years of trauma. However don't give up, it takes time, and with the right help (counselling can help, a doctor can refer you) and patience, you will be ok as I learned in the end.