Domestic Abuse and the damage it does to a woman’s assertiveness
Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive.
Assertive communication is a means of expressing your views, beliefs and needs in a way that is clear and direct while still respecting others. Because domestic abuse is a gendered crime, in this instance we are discussing men’s abuse of women.
Domestic abuse will often damage women’s ability to be assertive, there are various reasons for this.
“Assertiveness is an art and a midway between aggression and submission. Only assertion works”. Rajendra Muthye
Domestic abuse is terrifying, dangerous, disorientating and damaging. Women in these situations tend to be the experts at managing their own safety. They will be constantly making decisions to avert an escalation of their partners’ anger, closely monitoring his behaviour and adjusting theirs in an attempt to keep him calm.
Expressing their own needs is often not an option for women in abusive relationships. It could be highly dangerous to do this and might illicit an angry outburst from their partner.
Women will often prioritise their partner’s needs, expectations and demands and ignore their own. This might be the safest option when living with an angry and unpredictable narcissist. When women in these situations habitually fail to express their needs and learn to behave in a submissive manner to stay safe, over time this behaviour pattern may become habitual, even when they’ve moved on from the abuse.
Domestic abuse has a corrosive impact on survivors’ emotional health. Being verbally, emotionally and physically abused, and having their own needs denied often leads to low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. Feeling unworthy and believing that their needs don’t count is a common issue for survivors and behaving in an assertive manner might seem almost impossible to these women.
“What you allow is what will continue.”
When women move on from the abusive relationship but continue to behave in a submissive manner and feel unworthy, there is a danger of others treating them abusively too. Behaving as if your needs are not important tends to encourage others believe this is true. Women in this position may find they are doing too much for friends without any reciprocation. They may be more accepting of abusive behaviour in a subsequent relationship too. When domestic abuse causes damage, it is important to actively work to repair that damage to make a good, healthy recovery.
“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
The good news is assertiveness can be learnt. To some it comes naturally, but most of us need to learn the skills, practice and work on it.
Please download this Assertiveness Training now, which may help you learn more about assertiveness, and how to develop better assertiveness skills.
Please also keep an eye on our social media and Wellbeing newsletter for further tips, and our website as we will be offering some assertiveness sessions as part of our wellbeing events.