Why We Should Not Pressure Survivors

By Jenn Rockefeller

To pressure someone into something is to use persuasion, influence or intimidation in order to obtain what you want. In a domestic violence situation, abusers pressure their targets into a myriad of things – things that the survivors do not want to do but feel they must in order to survive or just simply keep the peace. 

It is after abuse is over that survivors may find themselves still faced with pressures from family and friends. It is vital to understand that we must not subject survivors to further pressures for a number of reasons.

So why should we not pressure survivors?

Triggers
For the duration of their situation, survivors were subjected to manipulation tactics that forced them to submit to the abuser. The survivors were pressured into many things that they did not want to do. When they are out of their situation, survivors often find themselves having difficulty saying no to things out of fear. We need to remember not to take advantage of this because the survivors may very well become triggered at the thought of having to submit to requests just to keep the peace. When survivors begin to find their voice, they will begin to say no and decline demands, requests and suggestions all because they are creating boundaries. Pressuring survivors into something will only make them feel like they are right back in their situations. We need to keep in mind that when a survivor says no, they mean no. 

Healing
Survivors are constantly healing no matter how long it’s been since the abuse. They are in a constant state of flux, ebbing and flowing with the tide of their healing journey. They may have great days where nothing seems to bother them and they may appear like they are healed and beyond the pain and anguish of the abuse. However, they also may have bad days. These bad days are fraught with anxiety, fear and guilt. Healing is a journey filled with many peaks and valleys, and we need to keep in mind that many survivors will be on their healing journey for a lifetime. That’s not to say that we need to tiptoe around them, but rather, we need to be more aware of what pressuring them can and would do to them.

Decision-making
When in their situation, survivors were faced with the abuser making all the decisions. In fact, the survivors likely never were given the chance to voice their thoughts or opinions. Even if they were, those opinions were likely ignored or dismissed with the wave of a hand. When they are finally out of their situations, survivors often find themselves struggling with their decision making skills. It’s important to keep in mind not to pressure survivors into making a decision of any kind. Whatever decision needs to be made, it needs to be made by the survivor. Pressuring a survivor to make a decision may shut the survivor down emotionally and they may coil back into their shell. They may fear wanting to make another decision because, in their mind, their opinions don’t matter so why bother. We need to remember to nurture a survivor’s new-found freedom and that their decisions, thoughts, and opinions truly do matter.

New relationships
The world is completely different for survivors post-abuse. They are tentative at every turn. They are fearful to take chances, both in their personal lives and professional lives. Survivors are guarded in forming new relationships, whether they are platonic or romantic. We need to keep in mind to not pressure survivors into forming new relationships. Doing so could cause them to recoil into a dark shell that they may never want to come back out of. 

By keeping all the above things in mind, we will be able to walk with survivors in their journey. We will be able to let them be the ones to lead the way towards a new life full of freedom, love, laughter and most of all, peace.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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