Domestic abuse is an extremely complex and layered subject. Often most survivors of domestic abuse, don’t even recognise it or understand why it happens; but it affects us in many different ways.
Most survivors know that the what they experienced or are experiencing is wrong, but they can’t identify what, how or why. This is because domestic abuse has historically been normalised, and some aspects of abusive behaviour and expectations of women have been accepted by society and culture. These attitudes, values and beliefs influence our thoughts, experiences and ideas of our place in the world; especially as a woman, and in a relationship.
The I.C.E Programme examines the roles played by attitudes and beliefs on the actions of abusive men and the responses of victims and survivors. It explores the different types of domestic abuse (physical, sexual, emotional and coercive control), tactics used by perpetrators, the role of power and control, and the impact on self-identity and self-esteem.
Once a woman leaves an abusive relationship she is often faced with guilt, confusion, self-blame and upset, amongst a range of other feelings. She is unable to overcome her horrific experience, gain closure or move forward with her life, because she does not understand why it happened. The knowledge taught in The I.C.E Programme enables her to stop blaming herself and question where her beliefs came from, the social systems that impacted her choices, how common domestic abuse is in contemporary culture, and why she tolerated it. But this alone is not enough. Domestic abuse is about power and control so it inevitably impacts on our mental well-being. While the physical bruises fade, and the economic losses are replaced, the mental scars remain entrenched as they transform into subconscious, destructive behaviours. Survivors of domestic abuse have had their confidence destroyed, and been psychologically and physically injured. The abuse and negative experiences have effected their self-image, thoughts and actions. Most survivors suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia, anger management issues, all of them, or some. They need support to manage their feelings and thoughts, as their mental health issues become overwhelming, and they feel unable to cope. However, there are long waiting lists for counselling services, particularly those that specialise in domestic abuse. And survivors not only need to explore and understand their feelings and experience, but they also need practical tools which will empower them to make sustained changes in their lives. There is a necessity for the two interventions to take place at same time, as one addresses the experience of abuse, and the other addresses emotional wellbeing and negative behaviour. Both are equally as important in order to heal and be able to make long-lasting change in a short period of time.
The I.C.E Programme is innovative in its purpose to incorporate both domestic abuse and mental health while being culturally relevant. Often women leaving abusive relationships have many professionals in their lives and are obligated to attend various different services and keep repeating their story. This intervention reduces the number of services needed. Many women feel isolated by their experience particularly if they have fled from an abusive relationship; this programme builds a support network for clients as it is delivered in a group setting.
The I.C.E Programme creates independence through knowledge, so that survivors can make informed decisions about their future. It encourages creativity, by using an educational approach to question where their ideas and beliefs came from, and how they can be challenged. And it empowers, as it teaches us about the inner workings of our minds and how we can change our thoughts to make ourselves happier.
The I.C.E Programme will influence the lives of all those who take part in it, and it will leave an imprint on subsequent generations as many women will find independence, creativity and empowerment within themselves and break the cycle of abuse and suffering.