How do victims begin again with dignity after family violence shatters their lives?
It is one thing to advocate for victims to speak out about family violence but for those that do, the reality becomes, #thenwhat! Survivors are faced with the overwhelming task of beginning again for themselves, their children and their future.
We see and hear stories of victims escaping or - on those very sad but all too common cases- dying at the hands of an abusive partner. We need to also shed light on what happens to those who do escape with their lives. How do they survive after they leave? What challenges do they face and what real support systems do we have in New Zealand to wrap around these people?
We have incredible people and organisations out there who help survivors speak out and get to safety. The leaving is hard, often seeming an impossible feat, the unraveling of the abuse and the stark reality of walking away is monumental.
Because of the danger of leaving an abusive relationship many leave with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They have their lives, they are physically safe but that is it.
Victims more often than not are struggling with mental health issues from the abuse, coupled with financial hardship and facing the cold hard reality of trying to set their lives up again.
We tell victims to speak out and say no to family violence and we have campaigns and hashtag slogans like #metoo, #areyouok? and It's not OK. Although these are important initiatives, there remains a gap in our campaigns. Has anyone ever stopped and thought about #thenwhat.
Once you speak out, #thenwhat happens. #Thenwhat happens is your life falls apart in a whole other way. The journey and the daily battle to stay alive in another way begins.
We need to fill the #thenwhat gaps that survivors face. We need to help make it possible to think about life after you leave.