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Family Violence Messages in a Minute: Resistance is a survival strategy

As mentioned in the video, I am passionate about any and all things family violence related. But a key aspect of coercive control and family violence that I wish to express is the incredible strength, courage and bravery of primary victims as they navigate violence.

Primary Victims Analyse risk and strategise their own safety. In short, they exercise Resistance every single moment of every single day. As mentioned in one of the documentaries filmed on my story, Breaking Silence Season 3 Episode 3: Debbs Murray, it takes courage to leave and courage to stay.

If you think for a single moment that primary victims of family violence are helpless, hopeless, or lacking courage, I would like to take this opportunity to respectfully provide another level of understanding. They literally, and actively reduce the risk of harm in a multitude of ways, continually.

Primary victims resist family violence continually; they watch, measure, and feel the behaviours of those who harm them and adjust their behaviour accordingly to increase their safety. This isn’t a lack of courage; this is the development and implementation of a survival strategy.

If you have the opportunity to engage with someone and discuss the family violence they are experiencing, firstly, that is an absolutely privileged position to be in so please honour it, and secondly, please know that they are already actively working to keep themselves safe. If you go in there and tell them what you think they should be doing, or how they should be doing it, or within which timeframes, you are introducing another form of power over, and that is not ok.

Primary victims are the experts in their own lives, so please listen to their perspective so that you can understand their thoughts and position. Especially if someone tells you that you think they might be killed … LISTEN.

Sometimes, we judge people because they are not responding how we would like them to; within the context of coercive control and family violence, there are many reasons why:

  • Family violence entraps primary victims and primary child victims

  • Family violence informs when, how or even if someone can reach out for help

  • Family violence can determine if someone declines services or support

  • Family violence presents very real fear, threat, intimidation, and risk

  • Family violence also involves love and hope for our primary victims; they wake up every day hoping that the person they love will stop hurting them.

The other thing we need to consider is are we disappointed in someone because they are not reaching our expectations? Because we have no right to put our expectations upon others.

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 the 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 living with 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 a primary victim of family violence. So, celebrate them.


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