If you ask many people whether there’s a silver lining behind the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, they might tell you that quarantining at home has given them a chance to stop and re-evaluate their priorities, to spend more quality time with family and loved ones, to focus on self-care and self-improvement, or any of a handful of other platitudes. And certainly, for many of us, the stay-at-home orders have given us a chance to recalibrate our lives in some way.
But being quarantined with family isn’t a “silver lining” for everyone. For some households, being cooped up in close quarters can turn toxic—especially if there are unresolved issues involved. For many, things have even turned violent, as demonstrated by a significant spike in the number of domestic violence incidents reported during this time.
What do you do if you were in the second group—the one where quarantining triggered toxic behavior? Perhaps a discussion devolved into an argument and things got out of hand. Maybe you have found yourself arrested and separated from family on an accusation of domestic violence. Where is the “silver lining” in that kind of situation?
Believe it or not, you have options. Even if your family has been fragmented by conflict, and even if you’re facing criminal charges as a result, there are lessons to learn, and there are ways to make the best out of situations like these. Let’s talk about some practical steps you can take to rebuild and rehabilitate your life and your family.
The idea of cause-and-effect seems to be one of the most difficult concepts to grasp sometimes—but understanding this concept is a critical first step in rebuilding. No matter how bad things got at home, no matter how provoked you might have felt at the moment: whatever you did…you did. You made choices, and you’re now experiencing the effects of those choices. Unless you take ownership of your shortcomings, failures, and bad decisions, you can’t hope to move forward because you’re giving yourself no opportunity to self-correct.
If you don’t like the effects of your actions, you must change your actions—and that begins by admitting that those actions caused a negative effect. Regardless of legal guilt or innocence, start by admitting to yourself what you did wrong that caused this rift—not in a self-condemning way, but in a way that invites meaningful change.
Get Help as Needed
Owning your own failures does not mean there weren’t triggers involved. In most domestic violence cases, the decision to become violent isn’t a rational one—it’s emotionally triggered, and quite often spontaneously. In other words—you must accept the fact that there are quite likely some underlying causes to your behavior, and now is the time to explore those causes. For the vast majority of us, that task involves getting help from some sort of support group, licensed professional, or both.
One of the reasons the State of California mandates a “batterer’s intervention program” for people convicted of domestic violence is that they recognize the value of getting help in preventing a reoccurrence. Whether or not you receive such a mandate from the court, getting help now can help you prevent further incidents later. In-person sessions may be challenging during times of quarantine, or you may feel unsafe meeting in person even as businesses begin to reopen—but many counselors are offering teletherapy nowadays as an alternative.
Begin Rebuilding Trust
Even as you take positive steps toward rebuilding your life on a personal level, you can’t expect those you’ve hurt to just accept that “you’ve changed.” Nor is it a reasonable goal to “get things back to the way they were.” What happened, happened, and it’s a part of your family’s shared history now. You can move forward, but you can’t go back. Part of moving forward means you must purposefully take steps to rebuild the trust you’ve broken with the people you love. Some tips to help you do so:
- Acknowledge the hurt you’ve caused, and apologize for it. It sounds simple, perhaps even trite, but an apology that’s given sincerely and unconditionally lays an important foundation for rebuilding trust.
- Avoid making empty promises. Broken promises only invite more distrust, especially if you’ve already broken promises. Promising “never to hit” that person again won’t build trust, especially if you haven’t dealt with the root causes behind the violence. Promising to work on yourself and make amends is more reasonable.
- Rebuild at the other person’s pace, not yours. It doesn’t matter how “ready” you feel to reconcile. Apart from any legal restraining orders, the person(s) you’ve hurt in this process have the sole right to decide when they feel safe for you to return home or to reintegrate with the family. Respect this right and let your partner move toward healing as their level of trust allows.
No matter how dark things may seem—between domestic issues and the pandemic itself—you can still find silver linings. If you allow the current crises to become a teaching moment, you can mark this time as your first step toward rebuilding toward a better life. In the meantime, if you need compassionate legal representation for a domestic violence charge, we’re here to help. Please call our office for a free case evaluation.