What We Do: A Metaphor

One of my favourite metaphors for how we support victims of Domestic Abuse comes from Australian Psychologist Ursula Bensted when she discussed her Shark Cage metaphor.

We know, as professionals that women who experience abuse are not to blame for the abuse. The fault lies entirely with the perpetrator. The attitudes and beliefs that lead to abuse are entirely his, the choice to abuse is entirely his, it is nothing to do with the character or background of the victim. This is why victims come from all walks of life.

However, we also know that women who have experienced domestic abuse are more likely to experience abuse again. And those who have been victims know this too. When I tell women it's nothing to do with them and everything to do with the perpetrator they often ask "then why does this keep happening to me?"

This is where Bensteds Shark Cage metaphor comes in, it explains how people can be repeat victims without being responsible for the abuse, and how we can support people to step out of that cycle.

Imagine the world is a big beautiful ocean, full of colourful fish and coral reefs. Most of the ocean is beautiful but sometimes it can be dangerous too, sometimes we encounter sharks.

If we want to enjoy the ocean we need a shark cage. None of us are born with shark cages, it's the job of our parents, our siblings, our friends, our schools, society in general to help us build shark cages. The bars of our shark cage are our understanding of our rights and boundaries and the skills we develop that help us assert these rights. However, not all of us have had the opportunity to build a shark cage. If we grew up with adults who didn't have a shark cage they might not have taught us to build one, or something might have happened that caused our shark cage to get damaged. Most people have a shark cage with a faulty alarm or some missing bars, they require ongoing maintenance.

The job of the support worker, and in particular the purpose of domestic abuse support groups, is to give survivors the tools they need to build, or re-build and then maintain their shark cages. Keeping them safe from future abuse.

I love this cute little animation that explains the shark cage metaphor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDfNhN9IvR0