Understanding Resistance

Responding to domestic violence

People resist domestic violence to try to be safe and maintain their dignity. Resistance cannot stop the violence – only stopping the person perpetrating the violence will make it stop. But understanding how you have resisted being abused can help resolve any feelings you may have if, for example, you feel responsible for the abuse.

Think about a time the person abusing you did something to hurt or humiliate you or limit your freedom. How did you respond – both in that moment and later? What did you tell yourself in your mind?

You may have resisted in ways that were obvious to others, such as physically fighting back, arguing or making your own decisions that go against what the other person wants or has told you to do, seeking legal advice or other kinds of help, or trying to leave that person.

Resisting in more subtle or hidden ways can be part of a strategy for safety and survival

You may have resisted in what you think to yourself, or by doing things that are hidden. When someone has not used forms of resistance that are obvious to others, they are often blamed for putting up with the abuse, or seen as helpless and passive. Women experiencing violence usually resist in ways that are not obvious to the person using violence or to onlookers.

People experiencing domestic violence will try different strategies to look after themselves and their children and to survive.

It’s important to recognise and acknowledge resistance

When we see how people respond to and resist domestic violence, we see their knowledge, skills and strength of spirit.

If you are supporting someone experiencing domestic violence, it’s important to recognise and acknowledge how they have resisted the abuse. This can help them feel respected, and see you as walking alongside them and respecting their lived experience.

You may want to ask how that person has responded to the abusive behaviour and ask what they have done to try to maximise their safety and keep their dignity, usually with very limited options. It is more helpful to ask ‘After he/she did that to you, what did you do or think?’ instead of ‘How did that make you feel?’

Never judge someone for how they did or did not resist abuse. Instead, honour their resistance in whatever form it takes.