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Surviving Domestic Violation

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

When the personal is very, very political


You are poison running through my veins, you’ve locked me up in your destructive chains; all I am is a canvas to you and your paintbrush is a fist, painting me in blasts of red, blue and purple

– causing pain, you cannot resist.

“In situations of captivity the perpetrator becomes the most powerful person in the life of the victim, and the psychology of the victim is shaped by the actions and beliefs of the perpetrator.” ― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence — From Domestic Abuse to Politic Terror

IN A PREVIOUS INCARNATION WITHIN THIS VERY LIFETIME, I was the Coordinator of a recovery and support service for people living in situations of Domestic Violence.

I learnt many things about those trapped in a hell within their own home, and how incredibly hard it can be to find any way out.

The home that should be a sanctuary and safe place from the ravages of the outside world, was no hiding place at all, and any concept of safety was shredded.

“The guarantee of safety in a battering relationship can never be based upon a promise from the perpetrator, no matter how heartfelt. Rather, it must be based upon the self-protective capability of the victim. Until the victim has developed a detailed and realistic contingency plan and has demonstrated her ability to carry it out, she remains in danger of repeated abuse.”

― Judith Lewis Herman, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence — From Domestic Abuse to Politic Terror

Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1936

Escaping from the arena

“She could just pack up and leave, but she does not visualize what’s beyond ahead.” ― Núria Añó

The energy needed to leave is often drained through the constant emotional, physical and/or sexual battles and severe mind-games of a sociopathic parent or partner.

This often leaves the ‘victim’ (to become a ‘survivor’ when finally out the other side) shattered and almost unable to even crawl out the door, in the end.

Having been through the mind-bending and soul-destroying horrors of DV myself in my childhood, and then, as the pattern often goes, in my first adult relationship, I had a personal mission to help others survive such abuse and thrive once more.

I now reassure people who were or are engaged in an adult DV dynamic — through my own personal and professional experience — that we really usually don’t seem them coming.

The abuser brilliantly hides the truth of who they really are.

At first.

Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1936

Living in fear

“Fear was etched on her face like a gypsy curse carved on precious stones.” ― Wiss Auguste, The Illusions of Hope

People usually arrive in a new relationship with their very best face on, and it can take quite some time for the masks to fall and the reality of the abuser revealed. By then it can often mean you’re already very entrenched — sharing resources and home on a profound scale.

And the concept of exit then becomes complex.

The domestic violence cycle has its well known phases: starting with the calm (before the storm), then the tension can be felt building, as one person seeks power over the other; then there’s often a violent incident leading, at times, to remorse of the abuser, depending on their level of ability to actually feel this emotion; thence to the well-known ‘honeymoon’ phase, and a denial that any of it ever happened…

This vicious cycle then keeps going ‘round and ‘round, often for many years.

If we let it. If we stay.

Evanescence - Better Without You

From a hell on earth, to survive and thrive

“I am living in hell from one day to the next. But there’s nothing I can do to escape. I don’t know where I would go if I did. I feel utterly powerless, and that feeling is my prison. I entered of my own free will, I locked the door, and I threw away the key.” Haruki Murakami

If you’re experiencing any of this in your life, I really recommend from my heart, that you try to find support from those skilled and experienced in assisting people in this situation to find safety, and who are well resourced to assist you.

To help you in making those much needed changes in your life to survive and eventually once again thrive.

Please be safe, my dear friend, if this is happening in your life, and know there’s a world of peace waiting.

Photo by Dorothea Lange / damaged child /1936

Getting through it

“Use the darkness of your past to propel you to a brighter future.” Donata Joseph

Those of us who grew up in disrupted homes with alcoholic or addict parents, developed many ways to survive in the midst of often terrifying emotional violence and chaos.

But it was almost as though living in a constant state of real warfare. A war waged against you and your very existence.

At some point you realise the abuse from such a young age caused you to deny your feeling self, your intuitive self. To stay hidden, small and quiet. Back then this may have kept you alive, when you were too small and feeling powerless to deal in any effective way with the perpetrator.

To stay alive, it was vital to react in ways that would not trigger further retaliation.

Those of us with strong and rebellious spirits did not do so well within these expectations — to have downcast eyes; act guilty when, in fact, innocent; or to act as though in acceptance of the elders/or our partners corrupt outlook on life, and abusive behaviours.

Dorothea Lange, 1936

It wasn’t our fault

“Perpetrators of abuse often make their victims believe they are somehow responsible for their own abuse. Such misplaced notions shift the blame of the abuse from the abuser to the abusee.” Mallika Nawal

But in either resisting the violent and violation, or being severely abused and powerless to stop it, a realisation arrived.

That we were not responsible for the accelerating violent and abusive behaviours directed at and enacted upon us. Our presence merely fed into it. This realisation can be almost akin to reaching enlightenment. The relief of fully understanding our own innocence in their ‘power-over’ dynamic can be overwhelmingly emotional.

And thus, leaving the abusive home or environment becomes the only intelligent option.

It’s my experience that many survivors of an abusive and frightening childhood (or relationship in later years) develop a state of ‘hyper-vigilance’ — where our whole being is wired to be almost constantly on high alert for danger — an extremely draining way to live.

And I’m here to tell you that this exhausting sense of emotional rawness with our danger radar constantly switched on, can be turned into a blessing.

Yes, it can.

“A re-clarification of the myth of the phoenix — a phoenix is a bird, human, or place that rises or is reborn from its ashes” – Gregory Colbert

The best revenge is success

“The best revenge is creating your own happiness despite a person’s wish to take you down.” Melinda Longtin

Our highly switched on awareness of everything around us can actually be fine-tuned into strongly intuitive and empathic abilities.

We learn how to turn it down — the volume of our fear — by calming our mind, our heart, our breath and our adrenals. And once the shaking has stopped, our energy can rise again.

And not only can we see our own life clearly, we can see deeply into the life of others, and help where invited. Sometimes just listening and acknowledging the impact is the beginning of healing.

Our empathy deepens into a profound compassion for ourself, and for all the others. So many others.

And this is where we now, once more, begin.

“In a healthy relationship, vulnerability is wonderful. It leads to increased intimacy and closer bonds. When a healthy person realizes that he or she hurt you, they feel remorse and they make amends. It’s safe to be honest. In an abusive system, vulnerability is dangerous. It’s considered a weakness, which acts as an invitation for more mistreatment. Abusive people feel a surge of power when they discover a weakness. They exploit it, using it to gain more power. Crying or complaining confirms they’ve poked you in the right spot.”

― Christina Enevoldsen, The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal

Photography Gregory Colbert

DV Facts from Lifeline: What is domestic and family violence?

Domestic and family violence occurs when someone who has a close personal relationship with you makes you feel afraid, powerless, or unsafe. It can be physical, but can also be emotional and psychological. Non-physical forms of abuse can be just as damaging as physical assaults. If you feel disrespected, unable to be yourself, afraid to disagree, or negotiate for what you want, this may be a sign of abuse. Forms of abuse and violence can include:

  • Physical harm - threats of self/physical harm, smashing things, hurting pets

  • Emotional and psychological abuse - humiliation, put-downs and blaming

  • Financial abuse - strict or unfair control of money

  • Verbal abuse - name-calling, yelling

  • Social abuse - controlling where you go and who you see

  • Sexual abuse - and rape

  • Stalking - following, making excessive phone calls, texts or emails

  • Spiritual or cultural abuse - controlling practices or choices

If you are experiencing abuse or violence it is not your fault. It is the abuser who is responsible.


Deciding to leave a violent relationship is a difficult decision and requires careful planning and support. Everyone has the right to respectful, loving relationships and no one should live in fear.

  1. Find supportive friends - talk to someone you trust. Do not try to cope alone.

  2. Contact a support group - they can offer you direct help through shared experiences.

  3. Make a safety plan - include emergency numbers, pack clothing/toiletries, important documents, medication etc in case you have to escape quickly.

  4. Contact the police - when you decide to leave – the police can be on standby when you leave to ensure your safety or if you need to return to collect possessions later on.

  5. See a doctor - if you are feeling anxious or depressed. Consider talking to a counsellor/psychologist about how the experience has affected you.

  6. Recognise your strengths - to create a more positive life. Your skills and abilities helped you leave an abusive relationship and are signs of your capability under intense pressure.

If you need immediate help call 000.


Help Lines: Quick Links

Support Services

If you are in immediate danger, call 000 for Police and Ambulance help if you are in immediate danger.

NSW Rape Crisis 1800 424 017

Sexual Assault Counselling Australia 1800 211 028

Domestic Violence Impact Line 1800 943 539

LGBTIQ+ Violence Service 1800 497 212


Wherever you are in Australia, you can call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) for confidential information, counselling and support on sexual assault, domestic or family violence and abuse. You can chat online and find services in your area. This 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Visit Website Men's Referral Service 1300 766 491 This service from No to Violence offers assistance, information and counselling to help men who use family violence. Visit Website Mensline Australia 1300 789 978 Supports men and boys who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties. 24/7 telephone and online support an information service for Australian men. Visit Website Lifeline 13 11 14 Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can call 13 11 14. Someone will help put you in contact with a crisis service in your state or territory. Visit Website Kids Help Line 1800 551 800 Free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between 5 and 25 in Australia. Visit Website Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 Information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. Visit Website

Copyright 2019/2021 © Julie Von Nonveiller Cairnes. All rights reserved.

First published in MEDIUM on Oct 9, 2019

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