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Should I report physical abuse?



Victims of physical violence are often hesitant to report a family member or loved one for hitting, punching, slapping or any type of physical abuse. Compassionate people often become the victims of domestic violence because they have an excess of compassion towards their abusers. Below I address some of the common reasons domestic violence victims give for not reporting abuse.


“I don’t want them to have a criminal record.”

All behaviour has consequences. When victims of abuse refuse to report they are agreeing to take on the emotional burden and consequences of continued abuse. This shelters the abuser from consequences. Sheltering someone from the consequences of their behaviour reduces the chances of genuine change. Many people don’t begin to change until the consequences of poor behavior start to negatively impact them. When consequences are present this reveals if there is a true willingness to change and address the issues, or they will go somewhere that will tolerate their abuse.


Additionally, for a first-time offense the courts are typically more focused on a pathway to rehabilitation than they are on punishment. Pressing charges can allow the courts to provide accountability to a mental health treatment program. This kind of accountability doesn’t exist in mental health services that are strictly voluntary.


“I don’t want to go no contact.”

Many victims experience love towards their abuser. Every relationship has good and bad parts. Clinging to the positives can make it hard for people to see the benefit of temporarily ending contact. While someone is enduring various forms of abuse it alters how the brain thinks.


When the brain is in survival mode it has a hard time considering alternative ways to approach the situation. It’s just seeking to get through it. When you go no contact, this allows your brain to relax and opens the possibility for deeper problem solving.


Once the issue is in front of the courts you can request being able to discuss specific issues or to talk in specific contexts. Some people ask to have an exception to attend couples therapy to improve communication. Other exceptions include communication limited to specific issues like child visitation or having a third party mediate communication. Waiting for the courts to put these things in place also allows for a cooling off period.


“I don’t want to deal with their reaction.”

One benefit of a no-contact order is that if the person does react or attempt to contact you then you can notify police of the contact. In many places a no-contact order is automatic when an incident of domestic or physical violence is reported.


“I can’t afford a lawyer to help with a divorce.”

You can contact local resources, like domestic violence organizations, to learn about your rights and resources available to support you. If you don’t qualify for legal assistance, then you can seek support from other people in your community about how to move forward. Instead of getting overwhelmed by a long process focus on what the most immediate next step is and complete that step.


“I don’t want to leave the children alone with the abuser.”

This is a hard issue to navigate. Living with an abuser can be emotionally damaging to children. Child protection will often investigate when children have witnessed abuse without directly being abused themselves. It is best to seek legal guidance about pursuing supervised visitation, parenting classes, or other restrictions on an abuser.


Other points to consider:

For some people knowing you will report them can curb their behaviour.

Some fight for access and some don’t.

How does agreeing to live with the abuse impact the children?

 

“The Bible says I should forgive.”

The Bible encourages forgiveness. This does not mean that you should tolerate inappropriate behaviour out of a duty to forgive. The Bible also speaks about the need to tell the truth and confront wrongdoing.

 

Changing how you respond to abuse can be difficult. It can leave people with a feeling of uncertainty. While uncertainty can be difficult, if you have been strong enough to tolerate abuse you should be strong enough to handle a period of transition.


If you need support navigating the emotions of reporting or separation please contact us for a free consult.

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