How to move on after experiencing violence

Violence comes in many forms and shapes. Sometimes it can be hard to determine who is the victim and who is the perpetrator; at other times, the distinction is much clearer. Regardless, moving on after experiencing violence can be a difficult and long process.

For someone who has been the victim of an attack – and even sometimes for uninvolved witnesses, who are also scarred by it – that single moment of violence can come to dominate your entire life. Everything else occurs in relation to that experience, and you can slowly become disconnected from “normal” life and from others around you. You can very rapidly end up in a state of aloneness, real or perceived.

But although the trauma may never fully fade, there are some things you can do to slowly move on after experiencing violence.

One of the most important steps is to recognise that you are not at fault. Regardless of what you said or did, violence is never the right solution. Don’t ever tell yourself that you provoked or deserved it.

Secondly, allow yourself enough time to recover. There is no need to push it all aside and dive back into what you were doing before the violence occurred. In fact, bottling up your feelings can lead to even more emotional pain and trauma in the long-term.

Most people feel a sense of closure by reporting the violence to the police. Even if you think there is no chance that the perpetrator will be caught or if you weren’t really that physically hurt, reporting the violence is still the right thing to do – not just legally, but also for your own peace of mind. It helps you acknowledge what happened and will encourage you to start talking about it.

Finding a support group is key. This can be a formally organised session for victims of violence, or it can simply be a group of friends or family members who you trust and feel comfortable with

Often, expressing your feelings in some creative way can also help. Whether it’s singing, performing, writing, drawing, sculpting, cooking or home decorating – expressing yourself in a way that is right for you will help you deal with your emotions.

In the end, there is no simple solution for getting past a violent experience. What you can do is to focus on positive elements in your life, for example your children or a project you might want to start. It won’t be easy, but by taking small steps you will gradually leave the experience behind you, where it belongs.