In a recent class with 9th grade girls, we did a version of an exercise where one person stands in the middle of larger group of their classmates. She represents the person in an abusive relationship. Each of the surrounding people, one by one, read an unsupportive statement and cut their connection to her by turning their back to her. As the circle turned their back on her, her abuser, standing just off to the side, is clearly the only one left that is there for her.
The exercise was repeated and the surrounding students read very supportive statements. They re-established a connection to her by facing her and reaching out their hands to her. The visual was clear and dramatic. The victim now had a network of relationships that would sustain and support her, whatever she decides to do.
The exercise was profound for everyone, most of all, the student in the middle. She had a dramatically difference response both times – feeling abandoned and alone and horrible the first time; ready to think, plan, accept help, and take care of herself the second time.
My takeaway from this series on IPV, reinforced deeply by that exercise just 2 weeks ago, is that my judgment isn’t what is needed. What is most important to the victim is maintaining a connection – possibly a lifeline. I won’t forget.