Recovering from Domestic Violence

Learn how the power of healthy touch can help you be in control of your body.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. It is a time when there is a lot of information on how to recognize it, how to define it and where to get help. Not as much information is out there on how to recover from it, or what to do once you are out of the relationship and on your own. This can be a scary time. One thing you can do for yourself is get massage therapy, because it can help to repair your body and heal your spirit.

When you are in an abusive relationship, you often develop a negative body image. You may have been told over and over again, you are too fat, too skinny, too ugly. Your spirit becomes wounded as well after being told you are stupid, incompetent, inadequate or worse. These bad (and wrong) messages are often mixed with good ones, such as apologies, flowers, gifts and good times.

The abused partner is often isolated from family and friends, so the support system most people have has been shattered and pulled out from under your feet. When you finally do leave the relationship and seek help, you can feel alone and confused. It can be a very frightening time.

In additional to various talk therapies and support for shelter, food and clothing, massage therapy and other forms of bodywork are a great way to reconnect to the self and to the world. If you choose to go to a shelter, you will find that support. Counseling is often part of what they offer. There are some massage therapists who volunteer their time to work with abused individuals. They have usually gotten advanced training in working with trauma survivors.

Receiving healthy touch is a big step on the road to recovery. The first introduction to this healthy touch may be through a simple chair massage. You remain clothed and sit in a chair designed for massage. A chair massage is often short and focuses on your back, neck and arms. This is a great way to start to develop trust.

After a few sessions of chair massage, your therapist may ask if you want to move on to Shiatsu or some similar acupressure technique. With this, you also remain clothed and the massage session will be conducted on a floor mat. Early sessions may be a short as 15 minutes. They may gradually increase up to 60 or 90 minutes depending on your own level of comfort.

At some point you will develop the confidence and trust to receive a traditional, or Swedish massage. This is the ultimate in relaxation and healing. Swedish massage helps to normalize body functions, such as blood circulation and muscle tone. Massage helps the body to produce hormones and chemicals that lead to a feeling of well-being. It also helps you to connect your mind and body in a healthy way.

If you are in the process of healing from an abusive relationship, consider using massage as a tool in your box of healing therapies. If you know of someone in the process, consider giving them a gift certificate with your favorite massage therapist or spa. It may be the best gift you can give yourself or someone you care about.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, consider contacting a hotline or safe-house in your area. The toll-free telephone number for the national hotline is: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. For additional resources: http://www.feminist.org/911/crisis.html. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.