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
Reblogged this on Blog Of A Mad Black Woman and commented:
“You are courageous. You are strong. You are beautiful. And you are so amazing. And you will smile, laugh, and love again.” – Thank you Amy.
I’m out of an abusive relationship, and I still sighed with relief after reading this excellent post! Abuse is SO bewildering, it really sticks with you. I love the clarity, validation, and support you provide.
The things I wish someone could have told me. Even if I had to hear them a few times, it would have helped. I believe for this reason, we as survivors are motivated to reach out to others…. whether it’s in a big way like non-profits, education / awareness outreach, legislation or in smaller more personal ways like blogging or even if you as an individual learn about someone escaping abuse to just privately reach out to them and offer your support. Every act, every kind word may be something small yet profound. If I have made one person’s world less harsh, if I have made a burden less difficult to bear, it helps me continue to heal as well.
I’m glad you were able to take some relief away with you. Peace is good for the heart.
This post is amazing. It took all my courage to go no contact with my abusers and that day was the day the real healing started! Thank you for spreading awareness!
My abuser was not a narcissist, and by the time the relationship was about midway, he was so brutal and cruel and violent in ways I can’t even relay, he had succeeded in killing off every single positive feeling I had toward him. For me, there was no confusion. There was just trying to get away. Some people asked me if I felt shafted because of that lack of emotional connection, but I absolutely do not. It made it that much easier for me to leave on the first attempt. I feel hurt for those who get pulled back in multiple times and can’t imagine how it must feel to have to battle that inborn characteristic of the love developed for them (whether it’s romantic love or love we carry for our family) to get the logical knowledge that they are abusive to overrule that love. No contact is so tough to initiate but even harder to maintain until you get to a point where you are emotionally stable enough to not get pulled in again. I am happy for you that you were able to go no contact AND follow through.
With love and support,
well said! I am really happy you are out of this abusive situation!
Reblogged this on Child Abuse Advice.
This post is so helpful! I loved this line “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.” No one ever seemed able to comprehend that my mum could be so cruel because she was always really generous etc in public. Also, what you said about it not being the victims fault. Sometimes I think about the threats my mum made and her conditions (I’ll keep buying you food if you act a certain way) and I think, “Oh, that wasn’t that unreasonable, I was over reacting.” But you saying that abuse is never deserved is reassuring.
As victims of abuse, whether it be in a romantic relationship or familial, we are conditioned to respond to their threats in a way that enables them to continue their behavior. But we are also trained to believe that it is our fault. That we wouldn’t be insulted, verbally shredded, or hit if we didn’t talk back, if we did what we were told, if we did something right for once. Generally, the abuser will go behind our backs and speak negatively of us so others even think less of us… which in our minds reinforces that the abuser is actually not at fault and that we were wrong, that we needed the correction. This perpetuates the cycle because they are after holding on to that power and control no matter how they have to hurt and destroy us to do it.
Even now, I will sometimes think about stories of other survivors and feel like a jerk because I automatically feel that everyone else suffered more than I did and that maybe it wasn’t really that bad for me…. that I too overreacted. I also make it a point when I hear other survivors talk about how they didn’t really go through anything compared to me to correct them. They do so because the abuse became a normal routine in their lives, because they have disassociated themselves emotionally from it, and probably because a part of them still believes that it wasn’t entirely the abuser’s fault. It’s important for me that I remind them that what they went through isn’t any less valid than my abuse – that I just suffered in a different way. The amount of time and type doesn’t disqualify you from being abused. What matters is that you were repeatedly harmed, violated, and in fear of the person or people on this earth who were supposed to keep you safe and love you and protect you no matter what. No matter what!
I correct them when they say they shouldn’t have done this or that and they would not have gotten angry. Because the thing is, if we didn’t talk back, if we didn’t burn dinner, if we didn’t do anything wrong, the abuser is only going to continue to scrutinize until they find one thing, no matter how insignificant, to pick a fight about. Even if you did say something out of the way or broke something or whatever happened…. nothing ever – and I mean NEVER – justifies being verbally or physically violent with someone. Abuse is a crime. Society punishes strangers who harm us. But so much they look the other way when it comes to situations where it’s family or couples, saying it’s not their business. That it’s a domestic issue. That this man or that woman would “never” harm their significant other or children because they don’t “look like an abuser.” And that makes it even more dangerous.
Wow! Thank you for writing all that. I’m totally on board with you in all of that. It’s what I try to remind myself all the time since it is hard not to slip into thinking “it wasn’t that bad for me” or “I did do something wrong.” And it’s so true what you said about people looking the other way in domestic abuse, even though in a lot of ways it’s worse because if a stranger hurts you that’s one thing but if someone who knows you and is supposed to love you does, it invalidates your worth.
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