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The Many Facets of Trauma

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Trauma is often a scary word. Usually, when someone says they have experienced trauma, we think of the person being beaten, hit, punched, slapped, kicked, burned with cigarettes etc. I have talked to many clients who have not realised they have experienced trauma as "They never hit me", but it is important to know that trauma is not just the physical stuff. They might not be breaking the law, but they are breaking your trust.

So what is trauma? Let's explore the many facets of trauma: From natural disasters, to being mugged, to being degraded and having your self-esteem worn down over time, trauma presents itself in many different ways. One way it presents itself is through domestic and family violence.

One model suggests there are 8 different kinds of domestic and family violence; physical abuse; financial abuse (eg. withholding funds, only allowing a set amount of money to be spent); emotional abuse (eg. name calling, blaming the person for everything, making the person feel guilty often); verbal abuse (eg yelling, frequent criticism); social abuse (eg. not allowing the person to see friends or family, moving far from social connections); sexual abuse (eg. coercing the person to have sex when they don't want to, withholding sex as a punishment); spiritual or cultural abuse (eg. not allowing the person to practice their religion or culture); and stalking (eg. waiting for the person outside their work, repeatedly trying to contact the person). 

It is important to know that domestic and family violence often evolves over a very long time from a seemingly loving, supportive relationship, to slowly eroding the person's sense of reality. This happens so slowly that it is very hard to spot and can happen to anyone at any time, young and old, high and low income, male and female, any culture, any religion, any sexual identity. 

A common feeling of friends and family is one of "I don't understand why she doesn't leave him". It is very important to note that not leaving a relationship like this is not a sign of weakness, and if you know someone who is in a relationship like this and hasn't left, that does not mean that they are happy in that relationship. Often the abuser has slowly worn down the person's self-esteem to the point where they feel they wouldn't be able to cope without the abuser, ultimately keeping them in this cycle of violence.

This topic can be very difficult to think about, much less talk about. If you feel you may be in a domestic or family violence relationship, please consider seeking help from a trained counsellor or learning more about trauma and abuse from the following resources:

 - Lifeline - 13 11 14 - available 24 hrs per day, 7 days a week and free to a mobile  - Beyondblue - 1300 22 4636 - available 24 hrs per day, 7 days a week - 1800 RESPECT

Written by Estelle Perry - Psychologist

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