All people have needs to survive. We need to have proper shelter, food and health care. People need to feel safe and that their needs will be met.
Maslow developed the hierarchy of needs theory in 1943. He stated that people have needs that must be met before other ones. The basic needs for shelter and safety must be met for all people.
There is no room for fun, learning, socializing or self-actualizing without the basic needs being met first. The person fails to thrive. All the things other people do are just not the priority. The safety is the priority and dominates the person’s thoughts and emotions.
When someone is in a living situation where these needs are not met, they are left feeling vulnerable and afraid. The situation is unsafe and potentially life threatening.
There are different types of domestic abuse. All of them involve the person being stripped of their self-esteem and being denied basic needs that every human has.
There are men and women who experience violence against them in their own home. There are episodes of violence and there is a constant threat of violence. This threat forces the brain to be on alert and suspicious all the time.
The brain is not designed to be in this state for a prolonged periods of time and damage can occur to the way the brain assesses the possibility and level of potential threats for years to come.
There are domestic abuse situations which involve financial abuse. People are controlled financially and cannot take care of their own needs. I lived in an abuse situation years ago in which I had to go without heat for most of a very cold winter.
My money was controlled and I was not “allowed” to purchase heating oil. I still fear the cold and feel very unsafe and can go into a state of post traumatic stress when I fear that I will be forced to be cold. Even the oncoming winter is frightening to me.
When a person is not taken care of and not permitted to take care of themselves, it causes a trauma. It is terrifying to feel that you are in danger of freezing, going hungry, going without medical care and any other basic needs. When someone denies you basic human needs it is frightening and creates a horrible feeling of vulnerability.
Living in these types of abusing situations also causes severe damage to a person’s self-esteem. They may doubt their own ability to provide for their own basic needs for years after the original trauma.
The feeling of being vulnerable and in danger is carried in the brain and in the nervous system. Any situation which is a reminder of the original traumatic abusive situation can trigger a post traumatic stress attack. The person will collapse under the weight of the fear and not be able to function normally.
In addition to traumatic attacks (like severe panic attacks), the person can have a constant feeling of being unsafe. They feel that any minute something could happen to put them in a place of fear and danger.
Most people have never been in a dangerous situation of violence of of being in danger of starving or freezing to death. They have never been in a situation where someone threatened to cause them to lose their job unless they were compliant.
We have lived through an on-going situation of terror and physical and mental abuse. Being forced to go without basic needs is mentally abusive as well as physically abusive.
It is also emotionally abusive. We need to be loved. How could the person we trusted and loved, allow us to suffer like that? They made us feel that we were at fault or that we did not deserve to be taken care of. We did not deserve to be able to take care of ourselves.
It is difficult for people to understand the post traumatic stress that can result from living in a domestic abuse situation. It can take years to feel safe again or the person may never feel truly safe ever again.
It is hard to trust people again. A person who survived domestic abuse trusted someone who violated them in the worst possible way. They treated them like they were not human. It is very hard to truly trust anyone again after that happens to you.
It is hard to trust situations. I trusted that I would have food and heat once. Now I never really feel confident that my current situation will be able to be maintained. It often feel like I am just a hair from losing my job, even when there is no reason to think that.
I am often anxious on my way home from work as to whether or not the house will still have heat. The fear does not subside until I enter the door and feel that the heat is working.
It is a terrible thing to live with post traumatic stress disorder. It is sad that so many people do not understand how we feel. We are not crazy.
We have lived through situations where there was a very real threat. In our minds, what is to keep it from happening again. Our good judgement? Clearly our judgement let us down already. How can we trust ourselves?
My hope is for awareness that will generate some understanding. I also pray that all of the many people suffering PTSD from domestic abuse are able to one day find peace and a feeling of safety.