by K.C. Dressler, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
What if life had a remote control, I could hit rewind, and go back to when I was eight-years-old? What would adult Kim tell Kimmy, my inner child, to help her understand? Even though daddy didn’t give you regular kisses or big hugs. Even though daddy didn’t attend your dance recitals. Even though daddy buried his face in a newspaper or televised sport, shooing you away like a dog when you wanted his attention. Even though daddy said, “I love you” without showing you love. Understand, he loved you. He loved you in his own way.
The first time I experienced intimate partner violence is etched in my mind: His olive complexion was fiery red. His dark eyes narrowed, bore a hole through me. The veins in his neck, blueish green, were bulging on each side, his full lips pursed. In an instant, his large hand slapped me across the face so hard, my 115-pound body fell to a dirty, cold, hard slab of cement. I stopped breathing—the air sucked out of me like a deflated balloon. Everything went black. Like the time my mom told me I blacked out as a kid at a roller-skating rink, from crying without taking a breath because I wasn't getting my way.
Since I was a little girl, I longed to feel loved by my dad. I wanted warm, tight hugs and kisses. I wanted to feel my dad loved me, not just hear the words “I love you” spoken so often, like saying, “Have a nice day.” I wanted the approval of the first man I loved, kissed with lips full of drool, and hugged with unconditional love. Because my childhood was devoid of my dad demonstrating actions intrinsic to my development, I didn’t possess self-worth, which rendered me likely to attract a man who was verbally (emotionally) and physically abusive.
To be fair, my dad wasn’t cognizant he was emotionally unavailable. He couldn’t have known, feeling unloved by him was as if he had taken my hand and led me to four years of tug-of-war with Kimmy, listening to the whispers in my ear, he shows you love, he loves you, it’s okay.
As a survivor, years later I had profound thoughts, swirling around my head, wondering, questioning, “When does abuse begin? What if abuse toward women, by an intimate partner, doesn’t begin when they are, punched, slapped, beaten, called a “bitch,” told they are “nothing” told they are “dumpy,” raped, or forced to perform sexual acts for the first time?” What if the precursor to the evolution of abuse is when they are children, yearning to feel loved by their dad, needing more than the words “I love you” spoken?
It is true, we are all born with self-worth; for self-worth to develop, it was crucial my dad was physically and emotionally present in my life. And "physically" doesn’t mean he needed to live in the same dwelling, because divorce happens, but to be a consistent part of my life. Although my dad was involved, he wasn’t engaged and he was emotionally absent. While the emotional component for many dads isn’t so easy, they can still offer their daughters time and attention, showing them they are worthy of a man's time and caring. A dad can attempt to show he cares, by drawing upon the love he has for his daughter. Being there for her is what reverberates in her subconscious.
It was vital for me to accept my dad and his emotional limitations. It happened when I was 40—something, sitting in front of my laptop, writing an essay about father-daughter relationships, when tears began streaming, well, kind of gushing down my face, while a simultaneous laugh rolled off my tongue. I had been released from emotional captivity, an overwhelming sense of liberation, relinquishing the pain and hurt I experienced for decades, but took mere minutes to dispel. My epiphany (breakthrough) wasn’t limited to accepting my dad, I also accepted myself—for merely existing.
So, then I asked myself again. What if life had a remote control, I could hit rewind, and go back to when I was eight-years-old? What would adult Kim tell Kimmy, to help her understand?
If my eight-year-old self had understood she was loved by her dad, maybe she wouldn’t have felt unloved and not cried after every weekend visit. But I still would have been bound to meet my abuser.
K.C. Dressler has a Master’s degree in School Counseling. While writing her book Whispers in Her Ear, she conducted research to prove her theory: a strong correlation between women who have experienced verbal/emotional and/or physical abuse from an intimate partner and unresolved father-daughter issues. Whispers in Her Ear is based on an essay K.C. wrote, The Soft, Blue Blanket, published in Entropy magazine. As a survivor of domestic violence and stalking, she knows firsthand how a positive father-daughter relationship is crucial to a little girl maintaining self-worth.
I’ve always enjoyed acting, and while my biggest role to date was a supporting part in a high school production, I think my greatest performance has been in my personal life. For as long as I can remember I’ve desperately tried to cover up the things about myself that aren’t perfect. When I was in middle school I once secretly bought cold medicine and hid it in my bedroom because I didn’t want anyone to know I was sick. My secrecy was fueled by shame, and I was willing to go to almost any lengths to avoid admitting I needed help. As a result I’ve gotten pretty good at hiding what I’m feeling and going through. That especially true for the abuse I experienced during my first serious relationship. It’s taken me almost five years to start to come to terms with what happened and to feel some measure of healing. Now that I feel like I’m on the other side, I’ve struggled with how to incorporate this life changing experience and the work I’ve done to heal from it into my life when no one (other than the man who abused me) knows the extent of what went on.
Over the years I have told bits and pieces of my story to various people, and those who knew me when I was dating my ex-boyfriend have a general idea that the relationship was toxic and that he didn’t treat me well. I’ve sometimes felt the urge to try and get the people I’m closest to to understand what happened, but I have always had reasons to continue to hide. I worry that people will think differently of me, that they won’t understand or will judge me, or that hearing my story will hurt them. I find myself at a place now where holding onto the secrets feels like it will crush me, but taking the risk of asking someone to hear my story is terrifying. So many years later, I don’t even know how to bring up the subject. I feel like a survivor of abuse, but no one knows that I had something to survive.
Then there is the constant second guessing, the thoughts in the back of my head every time I think about the relationship: “Was this really abuse?” “Am I just trying to get attention?” “Was what he did to me actually that bad?” “What about the things I did to hurt him?” “He only hit me once.” “Maybe I’m being dramatic.”
Recently, I have been working with a wonderful therapist who helped me to share my story with her. For the first time I said the details of the abuse out loud; I told the story of this relationship from start to finish. I didn’t know where to start, but soon I was making connections that I hadn’t even realized existed. I had gone over these events in my head so many times, but something about putting all the pieces together in one sitting and hearing the words spoken out loud gave me a new perspective. I can’t say that I let go of all those nagging thoughts of self doubt, but for the first time I felt like I could see what had happened for what it was without the filter of my thoughts warping every detail. This is my story:
I was 17 when I first started dating Caleb* and we were together on and off until I was almost 21. I was in a very dark place in my life when our relationship began. I had been sexually assaulted the year before and had been depressed; I didn’t have a lot of friends and there was a lot of talk around school that I was a slut. I was desperate for someone to tell me I was wanted and that I was worth loving, two things I did not believe about myself. Looking back, I think that Caleb recognized from the beginning that he could treat me how he wanted and I wouldn’t do much to protest.
While we were still in high school our relationship seemed relatively normal. In retrospect there were red flags, but I didn’t see them at the time. Caleb made sure to let me know that his friends thought I was a whore and that he shouldn’t be dating me. He berated me for things I had done sexually before I met him and told me that my parents didn’t care about me.
We broke up when I left for college. During my freshman year I made many new friends and started to build my self esteem back up. For the first time in a long time I felt confident and happy. However, I still spoke to Caleb and over spring break he told me he was in love with me for the first time. Immediately, I was hooked again. This time things were different; I think that it bothered Caleb to see me thriving socially. I wasn’t the social pariah that he had initially started dating and the power dynamics had shifted. Shortly after we rekindled our relationship he hit me during a fight (the first and only time he was physically violent toward me).
One of his predominant ways of hurting me was to use sex as an excuse to be violent, and to use my sexual history to shame and demean me. He continued to remind me that his friends thought I was a slut, sometimes citing examples until I was in tears. After he hit me he claimed that he did it because he, “thought it would turn me on.” After that incident I cried constantly for several days, not because of what he did to me, but because I hurt him and made him so angry. He went as far as to use my sexual assault against me, laughing as he held me in the same position he knew I had been raped in and I begged him to stop. I can never remember refusing to have sex with him, and he made it clear that he expected me to be “ready to go,” when he wanted it.
Caleb also frequently criticized me and put me down. He attacked almost every part of me including my appearance, my manners, and my intelligence. There were certain things he repeated throughout the relationship including that I “looked like I had down syndrome” and that he “wanted to spit in my face.” He hated the fact that I took antidepressants because he “didn’t want to date someone with a disease,” and at one point convinced me to stop taking my medication. He called me weak and a failure because I used medication to cope.
As with so many relationships, the several months that we were in the process of breaking up were when Caleb escalated his abuse the most. He started threatening to kill himself and told me he might hurt himself if I didn’t agree to do certain things. He came to my house several times “to talk,” and instead screamed at me for several hours. At a certain point I remember feeling so tired and numb that I just sat silently while he shouted seemingly every insult he could think of.
Eventually we did break up for good. I haven’t seen or spoken to Caleb in several years. Even though I still have a ways to go in healing from this relationship, sharing my story (both with a therapist and with anyone who reads this) has helped to lift some of the shame that has weighed on me for so long. To anyone who has experienced abuse, your story matters and you deserve to tell it and receive support and kindness in return. For me, sharing this part of myself has been one of the scariest things I have ever done. It has also been incredibly rewarding and has proved to be an integral part of my journey. When I was with my ex, I gradually began to speak more quietly and at a certain point I was doing little more than whispering. When I tell my story now I feel like I am speaking for the girl who could only whisper. She deserved to be heard then, and when I tell my story I feel like I am giving her back her voice.
*Names and some details have been changed to protect privacy
By Katie Lloyd, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
1. Don’t blame them for the abuse
Many survivors of abuse worry that they will be blamed for the what their abuser did to them. They may have experienced this before, as many abusers blame their victims for “making them” abuse them. Absolutely avoid comments that imply that the survivor was to blame. Some of these comments include: “What did you do to make him/her so angry?” “You’re both responsible for your problems” “What did you expect? You chose to stay with him/her, marry him/her, etc.” Abuse is always the fault of the abuser, not the victim.
2. Be kind and empathetic - choose your words carefully
You have a unique and powerful opportunity when a survivor shares their story with you. You can respond in a way that supports them and helps them to heal from the abuse. Share what feels natural to you, whether that is letting them know they didn’t deserve the abuse, telling them how much they mean to you, or acknowledging how painful this must have been.
3. Don’t push for details
How much detail to share about the nature or specifics of the abuse is up to the survivor. It can feel invasive to be asked about details, and it’s best to let the person you’re talking to share the information that they feel comfortable sharing.
4. Check in about safety
It’s always a good idea to check with the survivor you’re speaking with to see if they have any concerns about their safety. The abuse may have ended years ago, but for some survivors the safety risks persist. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help them feel more safe.
5. Reach out
Some survivors worry that sharing their story will cause others to treat them differently. In addition to asking what you can do to support them, you might consider reaching out and inviting them to do an activity or just giving them a call to chat. Let them know that you don’t judge them for the abuse.
6. Take care of yourself
It can be extremely emotionally difficult to hear stories of abuse, and to hear that this has happened to someone you know can be devastating. You may feel a variety of emotions such as anger, sadness, guilt, and helplessness. All of those emotional reactions are normal and okay. It may help to acknowledge these emotions and take time to do something kind for yourself.
7. Just listen
One of the most simple but powerful things you can do for someone sharing something painful with you is to just listen to them. This can be easier said than done, especially when you are trying to manage your own reactions to what they’re saying. To the best of your ability, let them speak and really hear what they are telling you.
8. Respect their privacy
Someone who has chosen to share their story with you has placed a great amount of trust in you. Always check with them before talking about their story with someone else. Even people who you think know about the abuse may not. Ultimately, the survivor is the one who gets to decide who hears their story.
9. Try to stay calm
You may feel very angry when you hear about the abuse, but keep your temper under control and avoid acting violently or aggressively. For many survivors of abuse, anger is scary and can be a reminder of the abuse even when it is not directed at them. If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed you could ask to take a break from the conversation to calm down.
Abuse can be an incredibly disempowering experience. You have the opportunity to remind the person you’re speaking to how strong they are to have survived this experience and to speak out about it now.
Katie Lloyd recently graduated with a Master of Science in Counseling and Educational Development from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a specialization in Couple and Family Counseling. In her spare time Katie enjoys playing with her dog and traveling.
By Katie Lloyd, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
1. Choose who to share your story with carefully
It’s best to choose someone who you trust will be supportive, particularly if you haven’t talked about the abuse much before. You don’t owe it to anyone to share your story with them, regardless of the nature of your relationship or how close you are. Another thing to keep in mind is confidentiality; if you want to keep your story private you might choose to avoid telling people who have a history of gossiping or not keeping secrets.
2. Keep your safety in mind
Your physical safety is clearly of utmost importance, but think about your emotional safety as well. Talking about abuse can be an intense experience. Ideally, you will have some coping strategies in mind that you can turn to if you start to feel overwhelmed. Something as simple as taking a break from the conversation, going on a walk, or making a playlist of uplifting songs to listen to can be helpful.
3. Decide how much detail you feel comfortable sharing
How much detail you disclose about the abuse is completely up to you. You may find that it is overwhelming to talk about the specifics of what you went through. On the other hand, you may find it therapeutic to discuss details. What details you choose to share may vary depending on who you are talking to or where you are in your healing.
4. Set boundaries
Unfortunately, some people have a tendency to ask invasive questions in response to hearing difficult stories. You have no obligation to answer prying questions or talk about aspects of your abuse that you would prefer to keep private. It may be helpful to decide ahead of time how you will respond if someone asks you something that you’re not comfortable answering. One response might be just, “I’m not comfortable talking about that.”
5. Practice self care
Think about ways that you practice self care or things that you do to help yourself feel better. Planning to do something positive for yourself, whether that’s taking a bath, eating your favorite food or watching your favorite movie, can help you to cope with some of the difficult emotions that may come up around sharing your story.
6. Consider talking to a professional or joining a support group
There can be a lot of power in sharing your story with people you are close to, but you may find that it is also helpful to talk to someone who is more removed from the situation. A professional with experience working with survivors of abuse can help you to gain valuable insight, answer questions, and be a nonjudgmental listener. Additionally, talking to other survivors who have been through similar situations can be very powerful and can provide a different type of support than talking to friends and family.
7. Recognize that you can’t control other people’s reactions
Unfortunately, some people may react to hearing your story in a hurtful way. Their reaction is not a reflection on you, it is a reflection on them. If someone reacts in an unsupportive way, make sure to take extra care of yourself emotionally.
8. Think outside the box
There’s no right or wrong way to share your story; sitting down and talking about the abuse may not be a good fit for you, and that’s okay! You might consider using writing to share your story, whether that’s journaling privately, posting on a forum or a blog, or even writing a book. Some survivors find that creating art is a powerful way to tell their story.
9. Let others know what type of support you need
You’ve probably had the experience of not knowing what to say or do when something horrible happens to a loved one. It’s very likely that the person you’re speaking to wants to do or say the “right” thing, but they may not know what that is. If there is a specific type of support that you want, feel free to let the other person know. You might say, “don’t feel like you have to say anything, I just want someone to listen.”
10. Celebrate your courage
Sharing your story requires an enormous amount of bravery. It isn’t easy to put yourself out there and be vulnerable, especially when the subject is something that can carry so much stigma. Give yourself credit for being strong enough to speak about what you have been through. By telling your story you are helping to reduce the stigma around abuse.
Katie Lloyd recently graduated with a Master of Science in Counseling and Educational Development from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a specialization in Couple and Family Counseling. In her spare time Katie enjoys playing with her dog and traveling.
By An Anonymous Guest Blogger
“Babe, would you like to use my credit card for that?”
These were the words that constantly left my mouth during my previous relationship with my abuser. It’s quite interesting the way I first learned about credit cards…actually, my abuser, the person who constantly worried about my financial position, particularly in terms of acquiring debt while I was in college, suggested that I apply for a credit card in order to make a large purchase for him. At the time, I was still relatively naïve, being an older teenager in college, but I knew that his family lacked the financial resources he truly needed to be a successful student. Since I constantly wanted him to be happy, I obliged to his request.
The understanding we had was that he would pay me back immediately after he received his refund check for school in order to pay off the debt, approximately $1500 or so if I remember correctly, which he did. However, in the months and years to come after this initial purchase, I would find myself using my own financial resources to continue keeping him happy, even if he never directly asked me to.
To provide a little more detail, I don’t recall many times after his initial request that my abuser directly asked me to cover various expenses. However, given the power and control dynamics of our relationship, I was constantly striving to keep him happy…whether that was through purchasing gifts for him that I thought he would like, covering meals and trips, paying his cell phone bill, and even making purchases that we discussed he would eventually pay back. I found that I was attempting to please someone that could never be pleased. I remember one specific time where I spent nearly $500 for a special Valentine’s Day outing on a small yacht in the city where I lived at the time towards the end of our relationship. Despite the nearly perfect date and the most romantic time we had shared in a while, the day still resulted in a violent altercation by the end of the night, evidently because I made him “feel stupid” at some point on our way home.
Sometimes I still get angry with myself for all of the things I did for him financially – paying his bills, buying him gifts, and covering larger expenses that I thought he would eventually back me back for. When I think back to my intention in risking my own financial position as a young adult who had just graduated from college at the time, all I can think about is the subtle way that my abuser would manipulate me into financially abusive situations knowing that I could not truly afford to do so. I also believe he consciously knew that he would never repay me or contribute to the relationship financially in any way as long as I “volunteered” to cover everything.
Needless to say, I was never reimbursed for the debt I accumulated through my credit card purchases I made for him either during or after I left the relationship. Ultimately, it took nearly 2 years for me to pay off my outstanding credit card debt, which mostly consisted of larger purchases I had made for him over the years I presumed he would help me pay back. While this was a discouraging process to go through, I have to stop myself sometimes and remember to not blame myself for past actions given the power and control dynamics that were at play.
To current victims and survivors of financial abuse with an intimate partner or other trusted individual – be gentle on yourself and on your heart when thinking about these issues. Remember that no one deserves to be abused in any form or fashion. It is possible to seek help and recover from the aftermath of an abusive relationship from a financial standpoint. Despite the grim outlook at first, with confidence, discipline, support, and self-compassion, one can overcome the aftermath of financial abuse.
By Allison Crowe, See the Triumph Co-Founder
This month, we are focusing on “Seeing Triumph Around the World” and spotlighting some of our very important international ambassadors who make up our newest See the Triumph initiative, the International Ambassadors Program. We will pay special attention to international issues this month because we firmly believe that violence is a global issue, and that learning from each other will only help all of us as we work together to end domestic and intimate partner violence around the world.
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced some form of intimate partner violence. This statistic is upsetting. We also know that the stigma that surrounds intimate violence in so many cultures is a large part of why these numbers are so high.
Stigma because some believe that domestic violence is something that occurs “behind closed doors.” Or stigma because a victim believes that she or he somehow deserved to be abused. Or stigma because a victim feels embarrassed or ashamed that he or she did not leave the relationship sooner.
Given these sorts of facts and complexities, how do we maintain the belief that we can work together to end the stigma of intimate partner violence? The answer is, through you.
All of you out there have a story to tell. A story about how you struggled. A story of how you still might be struggling. A story of how you made it out alive, or how you have since helped someone else. The way we can continue to overcome intimate partner violence, and stamp out the stigma that surrounds it is by hearing from you.
We encourage you to tell us your story. We have heard from nearly 500 of you who have wanted to share your story – we invite anyone else who wants to participate to do so here: http://www.seethetriumph.org/participate-in-our-research.html
Help us continue to talk about not only surviving but triumphing over intimate partner violence and the stigma that surrounds it! These are global issues, and this month, we want to hear from all of you. Remember, it’s you who can make the difference for someone else – in your own community or around the world
By S. Wild, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
I was in an emotionally abusive relationship several years ago. It still shocks me to think that I had that experience. At the time of the relationship, I did not understand that his behavior was abusive. I made excuses for him, such as he was drunk when he said or did that, I said something that set him off, he grew up experiencing sibling abuse, etc. I got to the point where I had been convinced that I was not good enough and that if I simply gave him what he wanted, I would be a good girlfriend and he could be happy. Eventually, I believed something was fundamentally wrong with me.
I was not aware I was in an abusive situation until the relationship ended. My best friend told me my boyfriend’s behavior was abusive and suddenly everything clicked. It seemed so obvious after she told me and, yet, when the relationship was ongoing I was completely unaware I was experiencing emotional abuse. After all, the relationship had started off so well and only became bad because I was a bad girlfriend. Or so I was told. After my realization I found a quote regarding abusive relationships that helped me make sense of why I stayed with my boyfriend for as long as I had.
“If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water it will immediately jump out. If you put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the temperature to boiling the frog will stay in the water until it dies.”
This quote was reassuring to find because I knew others out there experienced something similar to me and I started to believe that it was not my fault for staying in such a terrible relationship. Though I knew many people would empathize with or support me I hesitated to share my newfound knowledge of my relationship with my parents and other family members. I was afraid they would not believe me.
It has been almost four years since my abusive relationship ended, and I have yet to disclose any details to my parents and most members of my family have no idea that anything out of the ordinary took place. Because I am fearful of how my family will react if I tell them about my abuse I decided to interview some of the males in my family to understand their general assumptions and thoughts regarding domestic violence. I was curious if their answers would convince me to disclose my experiences to them or not.
Among my few family members I interviewed there was a general assumption that most victims are individuals with low self-esteem who come from an abusive past and lack a support system from family or friends, though they acknowledge that domestic violence can happen to anyone. All my family members stated believing domestic violence is likely more common than they understand it to be. They believed perpetrators of domestic violence are not specific to a race, background, or socioeconomic status, and they recognized verbal abuse as part of domestic violence.
This information was uplifting to learn. I feel more confident that if I disclose my past to my family, they would believe and support me. What was more concerning to learn was that none of my family members were able to indicate warning signs a victim can use to identify abuse. As I stated before, I was unable to identify my relationship as abusive. So, several highly educated individuals could not indicate red flags. This demonstrates the importance of implementing domestic violence education in a way that can reach many and preferably at younger ages.
If I had been educated on warning signs and types of abuse, I would not have spent two years of my life in a relationship that tore me down, layer by layer. I would have known it was not okay for him to convince me that I’m not good enough and listen to how he wished I were different. I would have known it was not okay for him to call me names in private and in public. It was not okay for him to put me down constantly and insult my intelligence. It was not okay for him to push me, scream in my face, and call me a bitch in front of all our friends. It was not okay for him to unexpectedly show up to places I was, belligerently drunk, demanding to be let in and becoming aggressive when I, or others, refused. It was not okay for him to throw chairs across the room in my direction screaming at the top of his lungs to eventually be escorted from the premises by the police. None of it was okay, and I wish I would have known that.
The positive from my experience is that I now know what abuse is and I will never let myself be in that situation again. However, being in an abusive relationship should not be the only means of education. If we teach the warning signs, unhealthy dating behaviors, and types of abuse earlier in life, we could prevent women and men from ever experiencing an abusive relationship.
By An Anonymous Guest Blogger
“Don’t make me pay for what he did…”
Nearly 4 years passed before beginning another committed, intimate relationship since my previous abusive relationship ended. Given my long history with my ex, a large part of my recovery from the abuse involved me getting to know myself in an intimate way without the “burden” of a relationship. As I reflect even more now as I write this piece, I am reminded of how free I felt after leaving the abusive relationship. Even during those difficult healing moments, I was always possessed by such an overwhelming relief that the abuse was finally over.
For a while after my previous relationship ended, I was psychologically broken in my perception of relationships in that I equated an intimate relationship to pain and suffering. I can say that I was not opposed to casually dating and “keeping things light,” but I was opposed to entering another committed relationship again because my trusting nature had been nearly broken and fear of being hurt again paralyzed my heart.
That was until an unexpected someone came along nearly 4 years later and changed all of that…
Approximately 6 months passed between meeting my current partner and making our relationship official. During those months and even now, almost 2 years into our relationship, my partner continues to treat me with a type of love, support, and understanding I have never experienced. For a long time, even at times now to be honest, it scares me because my abuser was also loving, supportive and understanding…in the beginning. The abuse started nearly 2 years into our 8-year relationship.
Despite the overwhelming amount of patience my current partner has displayed, he has said on several occasions, “I’m not him…don’t make me pay for what he did.”
Sometimes I struggle not to compare my current partner to my previous abuser. Sometimes fear does get in the way of our ability to move forward in our relationship because I’m afraid that eventually, things will go south no doubt, because that’s just how relationships work, right?
What I had to learn and am still learning is that healthy relationships do have their challenges as well. Given my history of trauma, we were bound to encounter difficulties as it relates to trust issues, on my part especially. However, with a loving, supporting, and patient partner, a corrective emotional experience can take place and over time, I can say that gradually, I’ve learned to rebuild that trust again.
I can speak for myself and for others that have experienced abusive relationships that the healing process is intentional. I still continue to seek counseling now. Even though things are going great in my relationship, I know that keeping in touch with my feelings as they come up is crucial not only to my own mental health, but to the success of my relationship.
I know firsthand that trusting again is much easier said than done. Even now, it is difficult sometimes to move to the next step in my own relationship when pondering commitments such as marriage and having children. However, experiencing new people and new things have a way of changing one’s mind about the world and the people in it. So, to those reading this post – there is hope out there.
Believe me, I was very cynical for a while, for good reasons I must say! Protecting your heart is important and sometimes necessary to prevent pain and suffering. I would say to be intentional on your healing process because it is critical to your health on an individual and relational level.
Don’t let your heart grow cold and don’t give up on love because if you do, your abuser has won.
By An Anonymous Guest Blogger
Everyone has their breaking point and when mine came, I was at the point in my previous relationship with my abuser that I did not think things could get any worse. I had been strangled for the final time and so emotionally torn down that I seriously considered ending my own life just to escape the turmoil I had experienced for so long. At the time of our break-up, which almost involved me calling the police for the first time in our relationship in order to get him to leave my apartment for good, I believed my abuser “took the break-up well,” almost as if he truly understood that it was no longer a healthy relationship for either of us to be in.
Given our nearly 8-year history in the relationship, I knew that truly disconnecting from him would be a highly difficult task for both of us; however, I also knew that a “clean separation” involving little to no communication would be necessary for us both to move on with our lives. My abuser, however, had other plans in mind…plans to make my life even more of a living hell now that we were no longer together.
In short, the role that technology in the events that took place AFTER my relationship ended led to an even more dire set of events that I never could have imagined. In the months after our break-up, my abuser began a calculated plan of stalking behaviors via Facebook, which involved myself and my roommate at the time. His creation of fake profiles of other men on Facebook combined with my vulnerability at the time led to my abuser learning my whereabouts in another state, followed by in-person stalking. His stalking behavior ultimately led up to the final physical assault after the protective/restraining order was served. This was the first and only time I ever received medical attention as a result of a physically violent altercation and the last time I have seen or spoken to my abuser.
As I’ve learned more about abusive relationships in the nearly 5 years since that final attack, I agree 100% with what the research says - when it comes to abusive relationships, the most dangerous time is when the victim ends the relationship and leaves. That was certainly the case with me. Thus, it makes sense why victims can be so reluctant to leave and/or delay the process of leaving because it could literally mean risking their lives!
To this very day, I am extremely weary of my activity online. I don’t currently maintain any social media accounts and am constantly skeptical of others who may take pictures of me and post them online. While I don’t believe I am not in any immediate danger as it relates to my abuser given the time that has passed with no issues, other professionals have advised that I continue to minimize and/or discontinue my social media presence online.
I never thought things could get worse AFTER leaving my abuser. Leaving was supposed to be the hardest part, but as I reflect, life was even harder there for a while AFTER leaving. Fortunately, the help and support that victims need to survive the aftermath of the relationship is available.
To victims and survivors of intimate partner violence: Understand that the process of ending the relationship itself is NOT the end. In fact, it may just be the beginning to a whole new set of circumstances that will be difficult to face. However, at the end of the day, your life is worth saving despite some of sacrifices you may have to make to continue keeping yourself safe. DON’T EVER FORGET – YOU ARE WORTH IT!
By Anonymous Survivor
I’m writing this anonymously, so you have no idea who I am. I wish that I could tell you who I am. I wish that I could speak openly about my experiences with abuse. I’m proud of what I’ve overcome and all that I’ve learned from those experiences. I wish that I could stand openly in solidarity with the many courageous other survivors who do speak publicly about their experiences. Oh, how I wish that I could finally tell my story out loud for all who are interested to hear.
But, I can’t be open about my story and my identity as a survivor. It has nothing to do with shame. At times in the past, I admit that I was ashamed to have “gotten myself into” an abusive relationship. When I was first grappling with my experiences of abuse, I was embarrassed that I had been abused. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t need to feel any shame about those experiences. Instead, my abuser is the one who should carry all of the shame for what he did to me. Today, I don’t carry any shame about being a survivor of an abusive relationship. I’m proud of myself because I walked away from that relationship and because I’ve worked really hard to become a better version of myself since then.
As much as I wish that I could be open about being a survivor of abuse, I simply can’t do it. The truth is that it’s not safe to do so. My former abuser still has it out for me. If I were to speak publicly about what he did to me, it would almost certainly set him off, and this wouldn’t be safe for me and other people who I care about. As much as I want to be able to publicly share my story, I just can’t risk the danger it could create if I do so.
And so, I’m an “anonymous survivor,” and only a handful of people who are close to me know the full extent of what I went through. Because of this, I know that there are many other people out there who are just like me. There are many other people who are survivors of past abuse who’ve never told others or spoken publicly about abuse they faced. We all need to remember this: Many people who we meet every day have faced abuse and other traumas in their lives, but for one reason or another, they keep those experiences private. And, it’s their right to do so.
Being open and public about being a survivor does give people more opportunities to help others by sharing their stories and by being a role model to other survivors. However, being public about one’s story of abuse isn’t a requirement for successfully recovering from abuse. Let’s continue to work toward a world that provides more support and validation to all survivors of abuse - whether we know who they are, or not.
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