Domestic abuse is a lot like hepatitis. Most people don’t know they have it. However, its impact on sufferers can be severe and debilitating. Like hepatitis sufferers, targets of domestic abuse often don’t realise the long-term damage they will sustain in an abusive relationship.
Hepatitis essentially involves an inflammation of the liver. Acute infection may occur with limited or no symptoms and, if left untreated, can be a lifelong. Hepatitis can cause serious health problems, including liver damage, scarring, cancer and even death.
Domestic abuse affects the central nervous system (i.e. the brain and spinal cord). Prolonged abuse can cause complex trauma, resulting in long-term memory loss, depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, domestic abuse causes death.
Just as hepatitis symptoms can be silent, people who experience domestic abuse can present as confused or unsure about whether their experience with intimate partner violence is, in fact, abuse. Psychological and emotional abuse is generally the most difficult to identify.
Fortunately, like hepatitis, awareness is key to treatment. Once you’re diagnosed with hepatitis, antiviral tablets can be administered. Once you’re aware you are in an abusive relationship, you can leave (safely) and start work on the long and complex road to healing.
Unfortunately, treatment of complex trauma is not quite as straightforward or quick as a tablet. It can involve years of mindfulness, therapy and a life-long promise to surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Just remember the effort is worth it. As are you.
Jack Canfield once said “you can’t heal what you don’t acknowledge.” Another way of putting this, perhaps, is that you can only heal what you can recognise.