When it comes to domestic violence, there are countless assumptions floating around society about female survivors, most of which are completely unfounded and do even more harm to women who are already struggling under the weight of trauma.
One of the most destructive assumptions I hear of relates to the apparent 'weakness' of women who stay with an abusive partner.
Statements such as "Why doesn't she just leave?" or "What's wrong with her?" or "Why does she keep putting up with it?".
All these statements put the blame at the foot of the woman, instead of where it really belongs, with the perpetrator.
All of these statements also imply that a woman must be weak, passive or somehow stupid for remaining in an abusive relationship.
As someone who has lived in this space and now supports others through it, I feel called to change the narrative.
What we need is a narrative that acknowledges the unrelenting strength and determination these women display when faced with what is often extreme psychological, emotional and physical violence.
Unless you too have lived this experience, you cannot possibly fathom the strength it takes to wake up day after day to face what is essentially 'domestic warfare' behind closed doors.
The coping skills and the protective strategies women are forced to enact are equal parts terrifying and inspiring.
All to just survive their environment, often when their life or the lives of their children are routinely being threatened.
Facing adversity head on despite daily threats of, or actual, violence takes guts.
It takes nerves of steel and every ounce of emotional and physical energy a woman has.
Domestic violence is a multi-faceted and highly complex problem and women deserve support, encouragement and most of all, respect, as they rebuild their lives after the disaster that was.
Damaging stereotypes do nothing for society and considering the survivor may one day be your sister, mum, best friend or even YOU, it's imperative that the conversation changes.
These women...they only know how strong they are because being strong was their only way to stay alive.
It's about time society as a whole recognised this and changed their assumptions accordingly.
- Erica is a counsellor who works exclusively with women over 18. Her private practice is located in the Southern Highlands. You can read more about her work at www.shecounselling.com.au. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, on 0412 707 242 or via socials @shecounselling.