Non-Flash version

Claire: Domestic Violence

Everything was going well for Claire and Simon at the beginning of their relationship. Then Simon began to slowly attempt to control all of Claire’s actions. Increasingly, Claire had to explain what she would be doing, where she would be, and with whom she would be meeting. Simon became irritable and began to criticize her daily. Then, one day he slapped her hard. It was the beginning of a pattern of violence that only got worse over the next two years.

For a long time, Claire veered between wanting to give him a chance ‘because she loved him’ and leaving him before ‘he went too far’. It was after she became hospitalized with a broken shoulder that, with the support of a self-help group, she managed to overcome her fear, finally left Simon and pressed charges against him.

Victim's response and symptoms

In Simon’s presence Claire had learned to become subdued and alert, wary of the moment he would explode. Whenever he would be violent, she would be sometimes scared that he would kill her. Afterwards Claire had tended to play this down, thinking that it had not been not so serious and that the next time she would be able anticipate his frustration and calm him down.

During her evenings, everything in the apartment seems to remind Claire of these violent episodes which she simply cannot forget: a table, a chair, the creak of a door. Feeling unsafe in her own home, Claire’s sleep is disturbed and has been for a long time.

Four years since she left Simon, Claire is again asking herself why she carries on. After a couple of brief relationships that went nowhere, she is convinced that she will never fall in love again. At work she is called ‘the wild child’. She feels like ‘damaged goods’ and thinks that no one wants her. She has given up on her dreams of having a child and has no plans for the future.

The psychologist’s observations

Claire has repeatedly been a victim of domestic violence.

Traumatic event and peritraumatic response

Claire has had a chronic traumatic experience during which she had felt an intense fear of dying.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

Since the onset of the domestic violence, Claire has exhibited several symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

  • Disturbed sleep: Claire has trouble getting to sleep.
  • Nightmares: Claire relives the scenes of domestic violence in her nightmares every night.
  • Hyperarousal: As a means of minimizing the risk of being hurt again, Claire is constantly cautious around men.
  • Reliving the trauma: Claire sometimes displays unconscious protective behaviours as if she were reexperiencing an episode of violence.
  • Avoidance: Claire tries to avoid intrusive thoughts that remind her of the violence by focussing on her work.
  • Lack of motivation: Claire no longer has an interest in anything. She feels as if nobody can understand her or that they would even want to try. Every time she attempts to talk to someone about what has happened to her she feels that they tend to try to make little of it or tell her that she should have left the relationship sooner. This puts her off and discourages her from trying to get additional help.
  • Despondency about the future: Claire cannot see any future for herself.

Related symptoms

  • Feelings of guilt: Strong feelings of guilt are common amongst victims of domestic violence.
  • Low self-esteem: Claire does not feel ‘likeable’. Part of her feels that deep down it was all her fault and that she’s ‘good for nothing’. This is common to victims of this type of violence.
  • Depression: Like many victims of trauma, Claire suffers from major depression. She has suicidal thoughts.

Last updated: 1/1/2010 | © info-trauma 2009