Reclaiming Yourself From Domestic Abuse by Kitty Nolan

One in three women worldwide experience Domestic Abuse at some point in their lives; I am one of them.  There are many terms to describe what we experience:  Gender Based Violence (GBV); Domestic Violence (DV); Wife Battering; Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG); I’ve opted to use the term Domestic Abuse because it covers many of the behaviours women, and men, experience.  Firstly, domestic describes the running of the home, or family relations, and is synonymous with private; private or intimate relationships are the grounds for this abuse.

I use ‘abuse’ instead of violence because it covers physical violence, sexual abuse, financial abuse, emotional and psychological abuse, power and controlling behaviour, isolation, and spiritual abuse.  Some victims experience some of these behaviours, many experience all of them. Women and men experience abuse differently. For one thing, men are more likely to murder their partners than women are, and women generally have full responsibility for the care of children.  With that in mind, my focus in this piece will be on women.

By using our imagination, if not our first or second-hand knowledge, we can recognise the extent of the abuses women experience and can begin to understand the impact of this on their lives: the layers of control, the fear, and the feelings of powerlessness.  We live with constantly shifting ground, with rules changing according to the whim of our partners, even when life seems relaxed on the surface we can never let our guard down, and if we challenge our partner’s behaviour, it is frequently denied, and we are told we are wrong, mad, and stupid.

I have written about Sarah’s experience of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, Jamie, in my book WITNESS.  My focus in writing the book was to give people an understanding of the dynamics of an abusive relationship, what laid the ground for being caught in such a relationship, and what makes women stay.  Part of Sarah’s story, fundamental to her life, is the part played by religious tradition, religious teaching, and a genuine search for her own understanding of God.  At the end of each chapter I have written a healing meditation, appropriate to the events in that chapter, and Sarah addresses God as Mother.

Image ©Kitty Nolan 2016

Leaving an abusive relationship is very different from taking the decision to divorce.  It includes all the practical and legal activities, but is fraught with further danger. Leaving is the point at which women are most likely to be murdered.  Her abuser will not give up his power and control easily. In England and Wales, two women per week are murdered by a partner or ex partner.  Reclaiming ourselves from domestic abuse is an essential part of recovery, it can seem a long, slow process, but reclaiming who we are is important work.

Women who have experienced domestic abuse can find it difficult to believe their own experience, so learning to trust ourselves again is so important. Trusting ourselves is the beginning of having the life that we want for ourselves and our children, and places our abuser (even when we still must deal with him) further and further in the distance. Trusting ourselves is an essential part of exploring our spiritual selves and developing our own beliefs.  For me, this spiritual aspect was, and continues to be, the bedrock of my recovery; the understanding that loving myself soon became an integral part of my spiritual life – how could I receive God’s love if I did not receive love from myself? Self-care became important.

Our lives before leaving our abusive partner revolved around keeping him from exploding – we took responsibility for preventing his bad behaviour. After leaving, we concentrated on our basic needs – house, furniture, food, work; when these things are in place, we need to give time to caring for ourselves.  Here is an illustration with helpful suggestion:

I explore self-care further in this blog post.

For those of us who belong to Faith Communities, we often feel alienated from them.  The beliefs we have been raised with (about which Katie M. Deaver has been writing here on FAR) may not have served us well, but our spiritual lives remain important.  I felt fortunate when one of my closest friends introduced me to Mindfulness Practice, a Buddhist practice that helps us stay in the here and now and offers guidance for times of difficulty. I could use these practices without abandoning my tradition. On the journey toward recovering ourselves, finding what resonates with us from our family tradition is important. The most helpful guidance I can share is this: if it is life giving keep it, if it is life draining, loose it, and if teachings from other traditions give us life, follow those teaching too.  We will find others who share our outlook, even if, for some, continuing with church, temple, mosque or synagogue feels impossible.

For all of us, whether we have experienced domestic abuse, know someone who has, or are simply concerned about how prevalent it is in our world, taking a stand against it is the only way forward for us as human beings.  Many of us rail against war, but until we have peace in our homes, there will be no peace in the world.  Finding our way to recovery is as essential as finding a cure for cancer.  With mindfulness and compassion, we can make this possible.


Kitty Nolan lives on the east coast of Scotland, and campaigns for a safer world for women and girls, campaigning against Gender Based Violence for almost two decades.  She was part of Scottish Women’s Aid Faith Groups Forum from 2010 to 2012.  She has moved away from her family tradition of Roman Catholicism, but maintains her connection to the teachings of Jesus.  Her current spiritual practice is the Buddhist Mindfulness Practice, and regular spiritual direction. Her book WITNESS was published in November 2016. She has a background in education and social work, and she is first and foremost a mother to her daughter and son.

Categories: abuse, Domestic Violence, Goddess, Women's Power

Tags: , , ,

14 replies

  1. “Women who have experienced domestic abuse can find it difficult to believe their own experience, so learning to trust ourselves again is so important. ”

    This is a fundamental tenet of abuse and one that is not discussed frequently enough. In my case abuse began as an infant and so I NEVER experienced a sense of being able to trust my own experience. This left me vulnerable in ways that were beyond my comprehension, and even today, at 72 I lose myself when under to much stress.

    As you say, until we have peace at home, how can we expect to find it in the world?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Sara, for your comments. There is much about the experience of domestic abuse that is unknown to those who have not lived it. The pain and grief of a marriage broken for other reasons can go away; women, like you and me, who’ve experience domestic abuse live with PTSD for the rest of our lives – no matter how far we have come, it’s always waiting there to show up in the most unlikely circumstances – added to PTSD is often on going physical problems resulting from the abuse, but these are not often recognised by faith communities, or even our friends. I hope we can find ways to make this known, and break the silence surrounding the totality of the lived experience. I know this takes a change at the cultural level, and the work has begun; at the personal level, I believe we can heal, which is not the same as being cured, but their is life beyond abuse.

      Peace and smiles to you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that self-care and self-love are core practices. My current faith practice is very different from the religion of my youth; I view what I’ve made of it as an act of “reclaiming” the spiritual into my life.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. One of my best friends ran away with her two sons (and the dog) from an abusive relationship. She ran from Southern California to Southern Illinois, where I met her in a consciousness-raising group I was facilitating. But then she went back to him! I met him. He was not nice (which is an understatement). It was when he threatened to kill himself in his sons’ bedroom so they could see all the blood that she left him for good.

    Best of luck with sales of your book. I think your list of things to do for 15 minutes for self-care is excellent.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am a survivor of rape and domestic abuse in a five year marriage. I have scars from both but I carry on with God as my help. I write and speak to help others survive and thrive. My son who is 51 now still suffers depression I believe from living in a hostile environment for the first three years of his life. I feel sad for him and pray for him everyday. I know God is able.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am another survivor of domestic violence, and have worked in women’s services, so understand totally about the life sentence of PTSD we have to manage proactively. In Australia, two women per week on average are being murdered by an intimate partner. And yes in agreement with others, how can we have world peace when we cannot even manage peace in the home?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the picture and the “self care” points Kitty. I would be inclined to add “get a dog” to the self care – encourages walking, socialization, someone to talk to who just listens, alarm and protection, maybe even a child minder in certain circumstances. The picture is comforting, until I noticed the earth-rootedness. Then it became absorbing and rooted in me. Thank you.

    In Domestic Abuse situations I think of the children too. That was my experience since I never married, but my bio-father was a violent alcoholic and my step father sexually abusive. Even outside of marriage however, abuse happens in so many ways. :….constantly shifting ground, with rules changing according to the whim of our partners, even when life seems relaxed on the surface we can never let our guard down, and if we challenge our partner’s behaviour, it is frequently denied, and we are told we are wrong, mad, and stupid.” That sounds like a certain POTUS that much of the world is suffering from at present. It seems to me more important than ever to do our self-care and resist society’s violence.


  7. Thank you Barbara; I agree completely with all your points. ‘Wrong, mad and stupid’ are pervasive responses; a more respectful response requires stopping and thinking deeply about how this abuse might impact another, and, fundementally, requires us as a society to drop being judgemental. Comments like, ‘She must be getting something out of it’, misunderstands the issue, but more insidiously, is a one liner dismissive response.
    I agree completely about the effects on our children, and understand the benefits of bringing a dog into the family, unfortunately, caring for a dog can be an additional responsibility some of us, however much we’d like a dog. We have cats, which are much more independent while stil offering relationship. _/\_



  1. Reclaiming Yourself From Domestic Abuse by Kitty Nolan — 16 Days of Activism 2017: Day 2 – Reclaiming Yourself From Domestic Abuse

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