Domestic abuse is an extremely complex and layered subject. Most survivors of domestic abuse know that what they experienced or are currently experiencing is wrong, but they are unable to recognise what abuse is or understand why it happens.
This is because domestic abuse has historically been normalised, and some aspects of abusive behaviour, and biased expectations of men and 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 role of attitudes and beliefs on the actions of abusive men, and the responses of victims and survivors.
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 what and why it happened. The I.C.E Programme explores the different types of domestic abuse (physical, sexual, emotional and coercive control), the tactics used by perpetrators, the role of power and control, and the impact on self-identity and self-esteem. It enables her to stop blaming herself and instead question where her beliefs came from, and the social systems that impacted her choices. She will recognise how common domestic abuse is in contemporary culture, and why she tolerated it.
However the acquisition of knowledge alone is not enough. Domestic abuse is fundamentally 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 have been psychologically and physically injured. The ongoing abuse and negative experiences affect their self-image, thoughts and actions. Most survivors suffer from depression, anxiety, insomnia, anger management issues, a combination of these conditions or all of them. They need support to manage their feelings and thoughts, as their mental health issues become overwhelming, and they feel unable to cope and move forward with their lives. 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 well-being and negative behavioural patterns. 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 community group settings.
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.