We all carry fears and anxieties within us. However, for survivors of violence, often every moment is ridden with terrors and doubts. Recognizing the need to address the sensitive and volatile issue of fear, Sakhi’s Direct Services Department conducted a workshop on battling fears, during the November 2010 support group session.
Facilitated by Sakhi’s Domestic Violence Program Advocates, B.R. and R.S., the purpose of this support group was to offer survivors a safe space to discuss the fears they have experienced, discover the underlying reasons behind them, and find new and innovative ways to reduce and manage fears in their day to day lives.
Survivors listened intently as B.R. and R.S. defined various types of fears and helped them recognize the various manifestations of fear in the physical body. Many women nodded along as they identified with symptoms such as shallow breathing, increased heart beat and sweaty palms. “Fear,” R.S. explained to the group, “is completely natural and helps people recognize and respond to dangerous situations and threats.” Fear is a basic survival mechanism that acts as a system of defense in moments of potential threat to a person. Though it’s a normal emotional response to danger, if unaddressed, they can develop into unhealthy, pathological fears such as anxiety disorders.” Both B.R. and R.S stressed the value of addressing fears and sharing emotions, in order to reduce daily anxiety that can limits everyday functions.
Once the presentation portion of the support group ended, the room buzzed with conversation. Survivors began to speak amongst each other and discussed their doubts about their ability to survive, take care of their children and manage finances, further exposure to violence and societal pressures.
One survivor, Maya* expressed that in fear of being stigmatized by her community she found it incredibly difficult to make the choice to take action against her abuser. Maya expressed that by creating a mental wall between herself and her community, she gathered the courage to leave her partner and file for divorce. Once separated, she said she realized that the fear she held onto limited her and deprived her of her inner strength and prevented her from leaving the abusive home.
Another survivor, Priyanka* shared that what terrified her most was her lack of control over her own financial security. She expressed that the more she internalized these fears, the less strong she felt emotionally and physically. After some time, Priyanka began to practice deep breathing and yoga to ease and balance the discomforts she experienced.
“The goal of this support group was to provide a safe place to survivors of domestic violence to talk about what worried them and caused anxiety”, explained facilitator B.R. “I was amazed to see every survivor openly expressing themselves and sharing their own strategies of limiting fears. It turned out as we hoped- withwomen sharing experiences and lending each other a helping hand.”
* Names of survivors have been changed to protect privacy and maintain safety.
Editor’s Note: Sakhi holds monthly support groups that provide survivors of domestic violence a safe space to come and discuss the challenges they undergo every day. Topics are selected based on the needs and request of survivors.
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