[Content Note: This blog post contains discussions around domestic violence]
Don’t Suffer in Silence
Ms A.L.L. is one of the regular participants to our monthly group The Women’s Room. In this blog post, she shares some words of advice on how to deal with domestic violence and the terrible effects it has on our health and self-esteem.
As women with HIV it a is well known fact that we are at higher risk of mental ill health including depression anxiety and low self–esteem, than the general population.
In 2013 Positively UK surveyed people living with HIV around mental health and 70% of the women who responded said that they had struggled with poor mental health, and that this had often lead to missing doses of their HIV medications, or not taking good care of their health in general.
Sadly women with HIV still face instability, stigma and discrimination, and high levels of poverty and gender based violence women and often immigration problems. All of this can lead to emotional problems, to say the least.
It is well known that abuse within a relationship manifests in different ways, and it is often the main factor of depression, anxiety and other mental disorders. It can lead to insomnia, self-harm, suicide, eating disorders and misuse of alcohol and drugs.
If you’re diagnosed with HIV your partner can use this to abuse you even more. For example, by:
- Saying you can’t cope
- Not allow you to go out alone because he is your carer
- Speaking for you: “you know you get confused.”
- Saying you’re ‘mad’
- Saying you’re a bad mother
- Deliberately misleading or confusing you
- Withholding your medication
- Coercing you to take drugs
- Undermining you
If you have been diagnosed with HIV, you could be extremely vulnerable, and less likely to report it to the police.
You might feel a sense of shame because of the stigma attached by society and powerless.
Moreover, some service providers are likely to be more problematic, due to stigma (see also the report by Women’s Health Equality consortium from 2014 I am More Than One Thing):
- They might not believe you
- They might only see you when your partner is around
- They may accept his account
- They might even feel sympathy for your partner
- They might judge you
Do not blame yourself your mental health difficulties, or the abuse you are facing are not your fault, and you are not responsible for the abuse: the abuser is.
You are entitled to help, so seek it as soon as possible, it’s your right to live a happy and fulfilled life.
Many women living with HIV have found useful talk to others in the same situation and accessing peer support groups. Our next group The Women’s Room will be on the theme of building up our Self Esteem, which is always an important step in improving our emotional wellbeing and seeking help if we are facing an abusive relationship.
The Women’s Room ‘Growing our Self Esteem’ workshop will be Wednesday 14 June from 5pm to 8pm at Positively UK, 345 City Road, London EC1V 1LR, please email us if you would like to speak to another woman living with HIV or come to one of our groups: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.