Too often conversations about domestic violence define survivors as passive trauma survivors with the emphasis on the negative mental health and addiction consequences of the perpetrators’ patterns of behavior. And while these impacts are real they only tell part of the story. On a daily basis, survivors engage in small and large acts of resistance to coercive control & domestic violence. Based on their knowledge of the perpetrator, their assessment of the system and available supports, survivors engage in targeted strategic actions that are important to their own safety and the safety and well-being of their children. Not just passive recipients of abuse, survivors actively use a variety of behaviors to carve out physical and emotional “safe zones” a term coined by Dr. Evan Stark, author of Coercive Control. These acts of resistance can include:
Lying to the perpetrator
Defending their children from abuse
Fighting back physically
Standing up for what they and their children need
They can include ways to defy the perpetrators’ rules or places in the survivor’s mind where she fantasies about freedom or retreats into her mind when he is abusing her.
In this episode Ruth and David discuss:
how these acts of resistance are often decontextualized from the perpetrators’ pattern
survivors’ acts of resistance, particularly survivors from Black, Indigenous and other marginalized communities, often criminalized
the importance of professionals recognizing these acts of resistance as part of the process of partnering with survivors and avoiding failure to protect the practice
David & Ruth also showcase the audio from a video produced by Orana House, a refuge in Western Australia, called “Warrior Women” which showcases survivors’ acts of resistance. Watch the video.
More About The Podcast
You asked, we answered. Amidst our current, global political and social upheavals, during movements, activism and testimonies, legal cases, fear and victim-blaming – we’ve heard your voice asking for clarity, insight and thoughts about how all of this is reflected in the Safe & Together Model. Many of the stories and news pieces we hear about from our partners all over the world involve complex questions, yet the beginnings of change and hope are based on the sound, simple principles of the Model.
To that end, in our new podcast, “Partnered with a Survivor,” S&T’s Executive Director and Founder, David Mandel and Ruth Stearns Mandel offer a raw and intimate glimpse into their personal and professional partnership and what it means to truly partner with a survivor, raise a family based on S&T principles and engage in social change at every level. This is a podcast for practitioners and parents, partners and employers, coworkers and friends – and anyone else who may want clarity, understanding, hope and healing.
What does it mean to give consistent consent? What is coercive control? How do you probably see it or feel it every day? This is a podcast you’ll wish you had heard when you were a teenager. In unsure, confusing times, it’s our goal to widen the audience for the Safe & Together Model-associated material to survivors, their family members, and even perpetrators. For professionals familiar with the Model, it will offer another angle on the issues addressed by the Model. For those who don’t know Safe & Together, it offers a connection to the themes and ideas behind the work.
These podcasts are a reflection of Ruth & David’s ongoing conversations which are both intimate and professional and touch on complex topics like how systems fail victims and children, how victims experience those systems, and how children are impacted by those failures. Their discussions delve into how society views masculinity and violence, and how intersectionalities such as cultural beliefs, religious beliefs and unique vulnerabilities impact how we respond to abuse and violence. These far-ranging discussions offer an insider look into how we navigate the world as professionals, as parents and as partners. During these podcasts, David & Ruth challenge the notions which keep all us from moving forward collectively as systems, as cultures and as families into safety, nurturance and healing.
Note: Some of the topics discussed in the podcast are deeply personal and sensitive, which may be difficult for some people. We also use mature language to describe some feelings. Finally, we use gender pronouns like “he” when discussing perpetrators and “she” for victims for two reasons: 1.) statistically, more men are perpetrators than are women when it comes to domestic violence, abuse and coercive control; and 2. For clarity’s sake, sticking with one pronoun causes less confusion for the listener. We know there are many men who are in abusive relationships and we are not invalidating their situations.
About the podcasters: David and Ruth are committed to creating systems and cultures of nurturance and safety. David Mandel founded the Safe & Together Institute which trains systems in domestic violence aware practices from a child safety lens. Ruth Stearns Mandel is a survivor of complex abuse, child abuse and domestic abuse growing up in a cult. She is a former teacher and trainer using her experience to clarify messages and complexities around abuse and survivors.