It is a miracle to make it out of an abusive relationship since leaving an abusive relationship is not as simple as walking out the door. On this episode of Sisters Without Shame, psychologist Amina Mwaikambo unpacks the complexity of the trauma of intimate partner violence (IPV).
Abuse – whether physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual – can have a long-term effect on your mental health.
“Abuse is hardly ever black and white,” she says. “Normally what happens in these events is that a person is left feeling unsafe, afraid, and very hopeless. The traumatic experience leaves a person feeling destabilised and whatever event has happened, causes them significant distress and emotional psychological impacts.”
Mwaikambo is a licensed psychologist and a mental health and psychosocial support practitioner at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR). She is currently also pursuing her PhD in psychology, researching torture through the experiences of womxn ex-combatants in South Africa.
Breaking trauma bonds
Trauma can affect how you feel about yourself and how you relate to others. People who have gone through abuse or other trauma, have a higher risk of developing mental illness including, depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic disorder.
Mwaikambo has clinical experience providing psychotherapeutic interventions for various mental health issues related to mood, anxiety, trauma, and personality.
The emotional attachment or “trauma bond” in IPV develops out of a repeated cycle of abuse, devaluation, and positive reinforcement, Mwaikambo explains.
“We as human beings are wired to connect to people and sometimes that drive to be connected can be manipulated and it can be dysfunctional. Ultimately, there is something that is not well in this relationship but because of your connection with them, you stay,” she says.
“It [trauma bonding] is centred around one person having power over another in the relationship. Trauma bonding is a type of attachment that normally takes place between the abuser and a victim.”
If you were a victim of gender-based violence or IPV, the following organisations offer access to resources, information, support, legal advice and emotional support.
- Tears Foundation: 010 590 5920
- The Trauma Centre for Survivors: 021 4657373
- People Opposed to Women Abuse: 011 591 6803
- Families South Africa: 011 975 7106/7
Listen to the full interview on Sisters Without Shame
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