When You See DV on TV

We’ve all been there before: you’re sitting in front of the TV when a photo appears of a person recently arrested on charges of domestic violence. Or maybe you are scrolling social media when you see that a famous actor has been accused of violence and abuse. Sometimes the movies and TV shows we watch can be triggering when they show depictions of relationship abuse.

No matter where it happens, triggers of abuse and domestic violence can be overwhelming. This is especially true if you are a victim or survivor of domestic violence or know someone impacted by abuse. Hearing stories of abuse, whether in your local community or from a well-known individual, can bring up many painful memories and feelings. This can happen whether you are still in the abusive relationship or have been out for years. So, what do you do?

Recognize the signs. 

Hearing stories of domestic violence on the news or seeing violence depicted on TV can be incredibly upsetting. Sometimes these events can cause a reaction that we are unable to understand or identify. Knowing what the signs or symptoms of secondary trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can help us know when we need to take steps to care for ourselves. These signs or impacts could include:

  • An elevated heart beat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty focusing or composing your thoughts
  • Negative feelings towards yourself, others, or the world
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Memories or flashbacks of abuse you may have experienced or seen.

It can be scary when you have those types of experiences. That’s why it is important to have self-care practices that you can do to help soothe yourself.

Practice self-care.

Self-care can look different for each one of us. What may work for one person doesn’t always work for the next, so it is important to find self-care practices that work best for you. No one can tell you what practices will work, so here are some suggestions that may help.

Minimize the triggers.

In our fast-paced world, stories of abuse and triggering photos can sometimes come out of nowhere. One thing that can help prevent these triggering moments is limiting the information that you see. For example, if your local news channel hints that they will be covering a domestic violence situation, you may want to change the channel. Another way to minimize triggers of domestic violence and abuse is to limit what you are seeing on social media. Most social media platforms have a “mute” option. This allows you to mute words or phrases, therefore removing any posts with that language from your feed. This can be a great way to remove content that is violent or abusive from your feed.

Try a grounding exercise.

Oftentimes when we are triggered by traumatic content, the emotions or memories that come up can be overwhelming. They can take us back to a time when we experienced abuse ourselves, or to a time when we saw abuse firsthand. These flashbacks can be incredibly realistic and can still cause a lot of emotional pain. Using grounding exercises can be a helpful way to bring yourself back to the present moment where you are safer and in a better place. Here is a simple exercise to try:

  • Focus on breathing in slowly through the nose for a count of 5…4…3…2…1
  • Hold that breath for a shorter count of 3…2…1
  • Exhale as slow as possible out the mouth for a count of 5…4…3…2…1
  • Repeat these slow, deep breaths as many times as needed

If you want, you can include a mantra that you say out loud to remind yourself that you are safe. This mantra could be “I am not my experiences.” or “I am safe now.” Find something that helps soothe you!

Do something different.

When we are triggered, it can be difficult to soothe ourselves. Whether it is because our mind keeps repeating a traumatic memory, or because the emotions that come up are too strong, taking a break and doing something different can be helpful. This change of pace can help us move our body in a different way to deal with stress or can put us in a mindset that allows us to focus on something different and healthier. Some things to try to get out of the trauma could include going on a walk, doing a centering meditation, creating art through drawing or coloring, or doing some form of physical activity.

Know you are not alone.

You may have a trusted family member or friend that you can talk to, or perhaps you have been involved in a support group for victims and survivors of domestic violence. We recognize that it can sometimes be challenging to get professional support due to socioeconomic status or a lack of cultural competency at some organizations. Because of this, our advocates are also available 24/7 to offer support. They can discuss different self-care practices with you, or possibly help you get connected to a local support group or therapist in your area that fits your needs. You can call at 1.800.799.7233, chat with us at thehotline.org, or text “Start” to 88788 to speak with our advocates.  You are not alone.

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