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Family Violence - Messages in a Minute - Resistance

We often measure someone's success in “making a change in their lives” by the big and obvious ways in which they resist family violence, such as the Overt examples below.  But primary victims and primary child victims resist violence in really small ways as well.

It becomes a little unfair when we measure primary victims' actions (or lack thereof) this way.  That means we are only seeing our primary victims in a positive light if they are engaging in a big act of resistance, where, in actual fact, they are actively resisting violence and planning and strategising their own safety every single day.

Primary victims resist in covert (unseen) ways, and in overt (obvious) ways:

Covert – making a safety plan, hiding money, disclosing to a safe person, protecting children

Overt – obtaining a Protection/Parenting Orders, making a statement to Police, engaging with services.


When we are repressed in the context of family violence, we often begin to lose sight of what it is that we are doing well.  So if you know someone who is existing in family violence, please remember to celebrate the small stuff … they got up, they had a shower, they did the housework, they got the kids to school.  These behaviours are so normalised in our society that we forget to celebrate them, they are seen as small and really inconsequential, but every single one of these “small” things is a BIG win, when you are primary victim of family violence.  So celebrate them.

Small actions soon add up, and small actions build to bigger actions. 

Trusting is not easy when you are a primary victim of family violence, we are abused and mistreated by the person we often love the most in the world, and if we cannot trust that person, why would we trust anyone else.  Especially an agency worker. 

Please know that primary victims are measuring your response to every word they speak, and they are doing this to see if you are safe enough to disclose further to.  They keep themselves alive by learning to read the behaviour of their abuser, so do not think for a moment that they are not analysing their safety with you in exactly the same way.

This might be the only moment in time that they are able to reach out, so treat it with the absolute respect it deserves, and believe everything you hear until you have reason not to.  And believe me you might hear some unbelievable stories of deprivation, degradation, humiliation and violence, most people do not make that up.  So believe them.

The greatest gifts you can give someone who is abused, can be things that you might not ever think of, shampoo and conditions, nice body wash, soap, the kinds of things that we are often not allowed, and yet mean so much.  My mum always brought me beautiful shampoo, she didn’t know about the violence, she just thought we were too poor to afford nice shampoo and conditioner.  We didn’t have a lot but the main reason was that I wasn’t allowed it, my predominant aggressor didn’t allow me to have it.  We often have very little light left in our lives when we are abused and violated, and simple acts can absolutely mean the world to us.

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