Homeopathy - offering support in dark times
Updated: Nov 30, 2020
To donate to Homeopathy in the Sussex Community click here
The effects of Covid have brought challenges for everyone. But for many people in abusive relationships, lockdown restrictions have had a profound and devastating impact; a double blow of increased abuse occurring behind closed doors, alongside reduced access to support structures and escape routes.
Today is the UN Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It also marks the start of 16 Days of Action, a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness and find real and lasting solutions to allow women to live without fear of violence or abuse. Here in Sussex, homeopathic support, provided by local organisation Homeopathy in the Sussex Community (HISC), offers a lifeline for many women experiencing the brutal effects of abuse.
Holly*, 49, has bravely managed to free herself from a controlling and abusive partner and has used homeopathy to get through the darkest of times. Contrary to common perceptions, domestic abuse isn’t just about incidents of physical violence at home. It frequently manifests as more complex and invisible patterns of control - often defined by coercive and threatening behaviours inflicted financially, psychologically and sexually.
After many years of living in fear, Holly took the pivotal step to seek help; accessing services provided by a pioneering charity, Safe in Sussex (SIS). Affiliated with Women’s Aid, SIS runs refuges across the county, offering sanctuary to women in danger. As well as providing a safe space, SIS also offers a suite of support services for women on their journey to recovery, encouraging and empowering them to build a safer and happier future. It is amongst these extended services where HISC comes in, providing regular sessions of homeopathy for those who want to access this safe and natural system of medicine.
Homeopathy has been around for over 200 years and is used and trusted by approximately 600 million people around the world today. Homeopathic medicines, often referred to as remedies, work holistically for each unique individual, stimulating the body’s own healing mechanism to restore health and harmony on every level.
Homeopathy is helping Holly overcome crippling depression, the fall-out of a long and abusive relationship. And whilst she is at last free of her (now ex) partner’s physical presence, the far-reaching effects of bullying and mental abuse persist. It is another common misconception that the abuse stops once the perpetrator is out of the picture; in reality, the repercussions often continue to wreak havoc long after the immediate, physical danger has gone.
For Holly, this has meant enduring extreme financial hardship as her former partner continues to wield control from a distance. Tactics have included withholding child maintenance payments and obstructing court proceedings, making it almost impossible for Holly to get by. Speaking about how daily life can become crushingly overwhelming, she says “in a sense, my children would have been financially better off if I had died. It’s a harsh reality, but one that adds to the sense of worthlessness and suicidal thoughts. It’s a fight every day to get up. It’s so severe that I am in physical pain with it. It’s truly diabolical.”
Before connecting with SIS, Holly struggled to find appropriate support and talks about the limitations of some conventional approaches to dealing with such complex issues, “there’s a lot of pressure to just pick yourself up and get on with things. I’ve been offered anti-depressants several times, it’s as though the doctor is saying ‘quick take this, we’ve got to get you back into action’. But I need time and space to process things. The pressure to get back on your feet can be overwhelming, it can tip you over the edge.”
As well as this unhelpful sense of pressure, she also recognises that conventional meds can bring unwanted side effects and may act merely as a sticking plaster, rather than addressing the issues at their core. Conversely, she says homeopathic treatment has brought about “permanent and radical improvements”. It has allowed her to heal and move towards a safer and happier future with her two children.
Holly’s homeopath, Therese Eriksen works with HISC, a small but impactful organisation which aims to support vulnerable people in the Sussex area. From small beginnings in 2010, HISC has gone from strength to strength and now provides low-cost, accessible homeopathy to almost 40 people every month.
Therese joined HISC’s team of homeopaths in 2013. She was initially recruited to work at RISE, another Sussex-based organisation that provides support and practical help for people who are, or who have been, living with domestic abuse. But HISC’s success story didn’t stop there. It was in 2017 that the service expanded to include SIS. And two years later, it grew again, reaching even further into the Sussex community to make homeopathy available to survivors of sexual violence via Survivors’ Network. This time it is Tara Lavelle, the in-house homeopath, who offers low-cost, but highly professional consultations. Tara is an experienced holistic therapist and also has many years of experience working with survivors. She uses homeopathy to help women find relief from the physical and emotional symptoms that are associated with the trauma of assault. Issues that she frequently comes across include insomnia, panic attacks, eating disorders and chronic fatigue, to name a few.
Clearly, when it comes to the comprehensive range of support and therapy on offer at HISC’s partner organisations, homeopathy is just one piece of the jigsaw. It is the multi-disciplinary approach that makes RISE, Safe in Sussex and Survivors’ Network so successful. Polly Irvin, Therapy Service Manager at RISE, is keen to emphasise the value of having holistic support services on offer. She says, “Therese works with clients to find solutions to their embodied experiences of trauma, for example by prescribing remedies for panic attacks, a common physical manifestation of trauma. And one of the greatest gifts of the homeopathy service is that it is able to work with clients long-term. It can support people at all stages of their journey, from the point of crisis to eventual recovery and reclaiming of life”
The demand for homeopathy is indeed consistently high at all three organisations, often running with waiting lists. When Therese started out, there was barely enough funding to cover one session a month at RISE. But as word got around, interest grew and HISC rose to the occasion. Reflecting on those early days, Therese says, “As more people signed up, they were so enthusiastic about it that loads of other people started to want it too”. Almost eight years later, Therese’s sessions are consistently full and bookings have more than quadrupled since the outset.
The facts and figures shine a light on why demand is so high. One in every four women in the UK will experience domestic abuse at some stage of their life. More worrying is the fact that the pandemic has made things even more dangerous than usual. A joint investigation by BBC Panorama and Women’s Aid recently revealed that during the first seven weeks of the Spring lockdown, the police received one call every 30 seconds about domestic violence. Two thirds of people living in abusive relationships were subjected to more violence and controlling behaviour and over three quarters reported that lockdown made it much harder to escape abusive partners. This largely invisible crisis has reached new and perilous extremes.
And all this at a time when many services have fallen casualty to the ongoing Covid restrictions. So it is a relief to many that HISC’s homeopaths have continued working throughout. Sessions have moved online and remedies are posted out afterwards. It has been a lifeline – literally - for many women. And for longer-standing clients, Therese and Tara even provide bespoke remedy kits, teaching the basics of homeopathy, what the remedies can be used for, and how to take them. It is empowerment in action. Tara says, “homeopathy brings light to dark times. It’s a joy to see the women I work with become empowered and find the tools to put their lives back together.” Homeopathy can and must be on the table as one of several options helping women to move towards a safer future.
We are all living through deeply worrying and challenging times. But we know that it is the vulnerable that will be most affected. Now, more than ever before, the UN’s call to eliminate violence against women is an absolute. Support us to allow Holly, and other women like her, to find ways to live without the threat of violence.
* Name has been changed to protect identity
To donate to Homeopathy in the Sussex Community click here
If you are in Sussex and have been affected by domestic or sexual abuse, reach out at: theportal.org.uk
Find out more about HISC and its partner organisations at:
Learn more about homeopathy at: homeopathyawareness.com
Photo credit: Miguel Bruna on Unsplash