If you are or have been a victim of domestic violence or abuse, there are many ways that you can be helped to recovery. You can help yourself, through writing down your experiences and feelings, or you can undertake a course of professional counselling.
There is another option, which is a sort of cross between the two approaches to recovery. You can join (or even form) a support group. In a support group you get to meet and share experiences with other victims of domestic abuse. This type of peer help has been proven to be extremely effective in aiding recovery from traumatic experiences, and domestic violence is no exception. A support group may be entirely run and led by its members, all of whom have personal experience of domestic violnce. Or, it can be run by professionals with a specialism in the problem. Both types of support group can be beneficial, and if you have the opportunity to attend both types it is likely to bring maximum benefits.
What happens in a professionally run support group?
In a professionally run support group, survivors of domestic violence meet under the guidance of a counsellor, health professional or social worker with knowledge and training specific to the problem. In addition to exchanging personal experiences, this type of support group may offer counselling, or organise lectures, presentations and targeted information. Individual advice may also be offered to members.
What happens in a self help support group?
A self help support group is peer run…ie, run and managed by its members, all of whom have shared the experience of domestic violence. It is not only cathartic to be able to speak about your experiences to others who understand and do not judge, but you can also exchange survival and recovery tips. Simply having a group meeting to attend can give you a sense of purpose and friendship, and can be the catalyst you need to kickstart your life after traumatic stress.
Online support groups
In this age of the internet it is hardly surprising that there are many online support groups. These work in the same way as traditonal ‘real world’ groups, namely, by encouraging mmbers to share experiences and tips. They frequently take the form of forums, where members can post and reply to posts. Or, they can take the form of ‘live chatroom’ sessions. It is also possible to set up Skype conferencing groups where members can chat in real time via Skype or a similar service.
How to find a support group
Many domestic violence helplines and websites can direct you to support groups, both real and virtual. Google searching is useful if you are looking for a group in your own area, or there may be entries in the local phone book. You could also ask your GP, therapist or social worker to direct you to an appopriate group.
If you live in the UK, more information on suitable support groups may be obtained through the following contacts:
English National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
- Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327
- Wales Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 80 10 800
- Dyn Wales/Dyn Cymru (for men in Wales): 0808 801 0321
- Scottish Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 027 1234
- Northern Ireland Women’s Aid 24-hour Domestic Violence Helpline: 0800 917 1414
- Broken Rainbow Helpline (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people): 0300 999 5428
- Respect Phoneline (for people who are abusive to partners and want help to stop): 0808 802 4040
If you live in the US you may obtain information from :
- The National Domestic