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Rebuilding after domestic violence

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

We begin an exciting new series today on the Broken to Brilliant blog, where eight domestic violence survivors will share from the heart as they develop new skills and work on their own healing and recovery.

The program

Founded by domestic violence survivors to support fellow survivors, the charity Broken to Brilliant designs programs to help survivors move forward in their journey of healing and reclaiming themselves after abuse.

New in 2021, the Blogging GEMS program supports DV survivors to practise the self-care strategies of Gratitude, Exercise, Mindfulness, Support, and Service (GEMS). As they practise the strategies, they blog about it.

These five strategies have been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve health and wellbeing.

Expressive writing is also a well-researched process that helps to significantly reduce depression (Koopman et al 2005), anger and tension (Smyth et al 2008) and improve mental health (Geraets & Van Der Velden 2020, Barr 2017, Jacques et al 2020).

It is easy to stay stuck in your story of abuse. It takes time, energy, persistence, and daily action to move along the personal and complex healing journey (D'Amore 2021).

These survivors are working on themselves and supporting their fellow survivors to do the same.

Starting with gratitude

Gratitude is the first self-care strategy our bloggers are putting into practice. Gratitude is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is being in a state of thankfulness. Practising gratitude can improve our physical, psychological, and mental wellbeing (Dickens 2017).

The Gratitude Challenge our bloggers were set was to:

  • write down 3 things that you are grateful for at the end of every day, and,

  • write a letter thanking a person, make a time to visit that person, and read them the letter.

My own gratitude experience

It was difficult to choose just one person to thank, as I am grateful to so many people. COVID helped to reduce the list, as I could not travel interstate!

The letter played on my mind for a few weeks. I wanted the letter to be meaningful.

It was hard to make time with the person I chose. They are terribly busy and barely stop while drinking their coffee.

I knew they would agree to a working meeting. I shouted them a coffee and at the beginning of the meeting, I said, “I have something important to read to you.”

I needed to read it aloud, so I got the words of thanks right. I felt nervous, that my words would not be

impactful enough.

As I read my letter of gratitude, tears swelled in their eyes. They felt valued, seen, and appreciated. Something they said they don't often feel.

They were so grateful for my letter, which I gave them as a keepsake in a card. Later that evening, I received a text message. Once again, they thanked me for making them feel valued.

Both our hearts swelled with joy and kindness on this day of sharing gratitude.

The series to come

Broken to Brilliant will publish the blogs of the eight survivors' different experiences of putting gratitude into practice, as they travel along their road to repair.

Their stories will give you the hope and belief that you, too, can step forward toward your healing and the rebuilding of your life. Broken to Brilliant is here to support you, in your journey.

Gratitude Blogs:

Exercise Blogs

Mindfulness Meditation Blogs:

Service and Support Blogs


Barr, Joanna W. The Impact of a Therapeutic Writing Group Intervention on Protective Factors for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (2017). Web.

D’Amore, Cassandra, Martin, Stephanie L, Wood, Karen, and Brooks, Carolyn. "Themes of Healing and Posttraumatic Growth in Women Survivors’ Narratives of Intimate Partner Violence." Journal of Interpersonal Violence 36.5-6 (2021): NP2697-P2724. Web.

Dickens, L. (2017) Using Gratitude to Promote Positive Change: A Series of Meta-Analyses Investigating the Effectiveness of Gratitude Interventions, Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 39:4, 193-208, DOI: 10.1080/01973533.2017.1323638

Geraets, Anouk F.J, and Van Der Velden, Peter G. "Low-cost Non-professional Interventions for Victims of Sexual Violence: A Systematic Review." Aggression and Violent Behavior 53 (2020): 101425. Web.

Koopman, Cheryl, Ismailji, Tasneem, Holmes, Danielle, Classen, Catherine C, Palesh, Oxana, and Wales, Talor. "The Effects of Expressive Writing on Pain, Depression and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence." Journal of Health Psychology 10.2 (2005): 211-21. Web.

Jacques, Teresa, Alves, Rui A, Fadaei, Setareh, and Barbosa, Fernando. "Real-Time Psychophysiological and Writing Correlates of Expressive Writing." Experimental Psychology 67.4 (2020): 237-45. Web.

Lloyd, Michele, Ramon, Shula, Vakalopoulou, Athina, Videmšek, Petra, Meffan, Caroline, Roszczynska-Michta, Joanna, and Rollè, Luca. "Women's Experiences of Domestic Violence and Mental Health: Findings From a European Empowerment Project." Psychology of Violence 7.3 (2017): 478-87. Web.

Smyth, Joshua; Hockemeyer, Jill and Tulloch, Heather. "Expressive Writing and Post‐traumatic Stress Disorder: Effects on Trauma Symptoms, Mood States, and Cortisol Reactivity." British Journal of Health Psychology 13.1 (2008): 85-93. Web.

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