Monica Breaks The Cycle Of Violence

A young woman wearing a grey hoodie, ripped jeans, and denim jacket sits in a grass field, the wind blowing in her long brown hair. Her eyes are cast downward and she is smiling. (Image courtesy of pixabay).

“What brought me to Aviva was I’d hit rock bottom like never before. I was scared for my life, always, and I begged my mum to take me home. She said that I had to sort my s*** out, I had to get on top of my anger. And that’s what brought me here.”

Monica’s* first encounters with violence were when she was a young girl, witnessing her mum being abused by her boyfriend, and experiencing physical violence from her dad. By the time Monica was in her early 20’s, she was homeless and in her own violent relationship.

“Because I’d experienced violence when I was a child, my defence mechanism towards males was to fight. […] For the first three to six months of our relationship, I beat him up. But when I realised what I was doing was wrong, the roles reversed; [he started beating me]. We were stuck in that negative cycle and not knowing how to get out of it.”

What kept Monica in those cycles with her partner was empathy.

"I knew my partner was only behaving the way he was because he had his own pain. We’re always the victim of a victim, and I think that was what stopped me for a long time from doing something about what was happening to me. […] One day I realised, ‘I’m not responsible for you.’

Monica decided to join Aviva’s ReachOut programme for people using (or at risk of using) violence. It was this that gave her the self-esteem to put an end, not only to her own use of violence, but to it happening to her. 

“If I hadn’t come here, if I’d decided I wasn’t coming, then I wouldn’t be sitting here. It’s really thanks to Aviva I was able to break the cycle. They were the ones that instilled the voice in my head that I’m good enough. They instilled my self-worth back into me to the point where it was like, ‘Why am I letting this happen to me again? This is enough.’

“When you get into a violent relationship, you’re afraid, and you stay in a stuck position. [...] I blamed myself, I felt so guilty. But I’ve come to learn that ending it was the right thing to do. You don’t have it all figured out straight away, if the decision you’re making is going to be alright or not, but time tells. […] I didn’t expect to be starting a course, having a roof over my head, and feeling stable by now. I didn’t expect any of that. You make decisions in the darkness, not knowing where they’re going to lead but if you make the right ones, they end up leading you to the light. And the right one isn’t staying with a partner who is going to keep diminishing your self-worth.”

“What I’d say to [others in this position] is, ‘You can’t fix it, not if the other person won’t change with you.’ I tried to get my partner to come here with me and he self-sabotaged. […] He beat me up the morning we were meant to come in here together. He wasn’t ready. But I was, so I did what I had to do to help him, but in the end, it helped me more, because I’m free. […] I only just realised how much space in my brain was focused on another person. I wasn’t looking after me. And now that I’ve been focusing on me – look how far I’ve got.”

“People just need to start getting help […] because trauma gets passed down and it grows. And that’s what my mum said to me – that the reason she broke the cycle was because she saw how it was affecting us and she didn’t want that anymore. And I said to her, ‘But you’d already passed it down. You stopped it when you did, but I still have trauma.’ That’s why my main goal is that when I have kids, that trauma is no longer there, so that there’s no violence. And I’ll teach my kids how to express their emotions properly, so they don’t use other means.

Six months after contacting Aviva, Monica is embarking on studies to become a social worker.


*Not her real name.