1. You aren’t over-reacting, crazy, hypersensitive, lying, or wrong. If you feel you are being mistreated, there is a good reason for that. You are. If you are having doubts over exactly what may constitute certain types of abuse, you can read any of the following posts in my Another Side of Domestic Violence series for examples of what I endured. (There are now widely considered to be seven types of abuse: verbal, emotional, gas lighting, physical, sexual, financial, spiritual, and stalking / cyberstalking).
- Verbal an Emotional Abuse
- Gas Lighting
- Sexual Abuse
- Financial Abuse
- Spiritual Abuse
- Stalking and Cyberstalking
- IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) in the LGBT Community
- Children of Violence
- Beer and Rock – Shaken, not Stirred (Drug and Alcohol abuse in IPV relationships)
- Animal Abuse
2. You cannot change your partner. There is nothing you can do to stop the abusive partner from harming you. You cannot love them enough, you cannot display enough patience or mercy, and you cannot do anything perfectly. They alone choose who they are. They are choosing to abuse you, and most likely, you are not the first one they have abused.
3. It is not your fault. Nothing you could ever say or do, no matter what it is, justifies abuse. Ever. The abuser will tell you if you did this or that, if you just did this, they would not have to hurt you, that you made them do it. Even if you somehow managed to do everything the way they say they want it done at just the right time, quickly enough, and often enough, they will search until they even see the smallest of things so they can find fault with you. You do not have control over their reactions and how they act and respond to you. Only they can claim responsibility for how they treat you, and they have chosen to abuse you.
4. If you are being abused, your children are at extreme risk of being abused as well. In fact, pets are also at risk.
- Children – According to SafeHorizon, some 3 million children are witness to incidents of domestic violence that occur in the home. Not only are children in violent homes at increased risk of being neglected or abused (30% – 60% of children in these environments are abused as well), they are also at increased risk of injury due to attempting to protect the abused parent during an act of violence and chronic health issues, including depression. Worse, according to some studies listed online at ACADV, daughters with abusive fathers are over 6 times more likely to be sexually abused as a child. If counseling / therapy is not sought for the children living in these homes, they are at increased risk for not only adapting abusive behaviors as they age but becoming victims of intimate partner / dating abuse themselves. You can never assume that if you are the one being abused that your children are not. The abusive parent will often abuse the children, too. You can never assume they are safe.
- Pets – The American Humane Association‘s website acknowledges what we as abused pet owners already know. The abuser often harms or kills the victim’s pet(s) to cause emotional hurt to their victim. Some statistics listed on this page state that approximately 71% of women seeking shelter revealed that their abuser had also neglected, tortured, maimed, injured, killed, or threatened harm to their pet(s), 13% of deliberate abuse inflicted on animals is directly related to domestic violence, and some 25% – 40% of women experiencing abuse in their homes would not (could not) leave, because they were concerned for the well-being and safety of their pets. If you are an animal lover (as I am), these pets are not just animals; we consider them to be a part of the family, and the thought of them being harmed or being witness to them being harmed causes us great emotional distress. (Abusers use this against their victims as a means to gain leverage and control, often demonstrating by causing injury or death to a pet, that they are to be taken seriously.)
5. It is imperative that you take every threat seriously, because you have no way to know which ones they will follow through on. Threats are used in combination with a variety of methods with one purpose: to keep the victim under control by use of fear, intimidation, and demonstration of the capability, will, and lack of conscience to follow through. Never write a threat off as just being empty words.
6. If you tell someone, you will be taken seriously. Abusers are skilled manipulators. They present themselves to the outside world, co-workers, family, and friends, as being kind, caring, loving, and compassionate. They will malign you to others and others to you to build a wall that does not allow you (or leave you wanting) to communicate the danger you are facing at home. This charade acts as a protection for the abuser, and it allows them to continue their behavior with little to no interference from outside parties. If you do not feel you have a friend or any family member you can reach out to for help, there are organizations and hotlines that will help you. You just need to take that one step and tell them you need help. And do not understate the abuse you are enduring. As victims and survivors of domestic violence, many of us have a shared tendency to minimize our own experiences, as we have in some ways become numb to how abnormal the behavior is. Because it becomes commonplace and center focus in our lives. Survival in this danger becomes routine, but it’s imperative that you accurately represent the harm you are enduring. Whenever possible, document it. Get pictures. Save texts or emails or voice mails.
7. Leaving is the hardest thing you will ever do. You must take precaution when you decide to leave, because you are going to take away power and control from someone who absolutely does not want to give it up. Some – many – abusers are willing to do whatever they feel they must to keep it. If you are able, try to plan your exit by keeping financial documents, medical information, etc with someone you trust. If you cannot plan, be prepared to walk away with nothing. It will be hard. You may be financially devastated. You may have to replace everything you ever owned, but nothing – absolutely nothing – is worth your life, your children’s lives, or your pets lives. You will feel broken, distraught, exhausted, and in mortal fear of your life. You will struggle. You will fight to find any semblance of stability and security, but you will be safer being out of immediate harm’s way. Remember that this fear will help keep you safe, because you will be on your guard. And for a while, you will need to be, as you face increased risk of being harmed when you leave. If it takes you several times to leave before you finally get away, don’t focus on how long it took you or how many times. Remind yourself that you had the strength to get out.
8. You have value. You are courageous, strong, beautiful, and amazing even though you don’t think you are. You have been conditioned that you have no value, no worth, and your love for yourself has been destroyed. Until you are able to see it and believe it and feel it for yourself, those of us who have been where you are now will remind you. You are courageous, strong, beautiful, and amazing even though you don’t think you are.
9. You will be able to rebuild your life. Be patient and work through your pain. You were not brought to this state in one day, and you cannot heal or create your new life immediately. You will need time for everything to improve. And most importantly, do not compare your progress with anyone else’s. We all experienced and were impacted by our trauma in different ways. Just as we can never react exactly the same as another, we cannot heal the same way or at the same pace as everyone else. If you focus your attention on working through the hardest part, on coming to terms with what happened to you, and working through your pain, you will begin to heal. Don’t rush it. And be patient, kind, merciful, forgiving, compassionate, and loving with yourself.
10. You are not alone. One of the first things you need to do past securing shelter and seeing to things like stay away orders, etc is to get into counseling and build a circle of support. This is going to be imperative in helping you break away from that feeling of isolation. There are many of us out here. We have felt many of the same emotions, we have been homeless, broke, many of us with children to care for alone, and we have felt shame. We have felt like we had no one to confide in, that no one would listen, that no one would understand. I promise you…. I promise you that you are not alone. In addition to counseling, there are support groups, and if there is not one in your area, you may have to reach out online into the community of domestic violence survivors to help get that support for yourself. Even if you find blogs that you read but do not yet feel comfortable commenting. Eventually you will. And when you reach out, we will be there to help pick you up and walk with you as you heal. You are never alone.
P.S. — You are courageous. You are strong. You are beautiful. And you are so amazing. And you will smile, laugh, and love again.
If you need help and do not know where to go, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE(7233) or by TTY 800-787-3224