By Allison Crowe, See the Triumph Co-Founder
Some of our recent research at See the Triumph has looked at how survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) overcome abuse and establish meaningful, new, healthy relationships. Unfortunately, all too often, society labels survivors as incapable of leaving abusive relationships and paints a negative and stigmatizing picture of survivors as remaining in the cycle of abuse.
In our research, we learned that survivors are quite the opposite of this stereotype! We were very excited to hear from those who had overcome abusive relationships about how exactly they were able to end the unhealthy relationships and go on to establish a life free of abuse. One particular theme that came out of the stories we heard was that a large part of overcoming abuse involved determining whether and how to enter into new intimate relationships once the abusive one had ended.
When we asked participants to describe their process of overcoming IPV, many described how they were keenly aware of not wanting to repeat patterns from their past abuse. We heard some excellent ways that participants did this – exactly how they embraced love and intimacy in new relationships. The phrase that describes this best is the notion of red flags. Today, we want to share some of the quotes from our survivors about red flags. We hope that reading these will offer strategies for you, or someone you know, to use now or in the future.
Participants in our study explained that they had to rely on intuition – or the ability to detect unhealthy behavior by “trusting the gut” when something seemed off, or concerning, or in any way reminiscent of the past, unhealthy relationship. Here is a quote from one participant who described this phenomenon:
“I can pick up on a man who wants to control me. Someone who has no respect for me. It may take a couple of dates but there are plenty of signs. I drop them. I would never allow any man or woman to put me back in a situation like that again.”
This is something we’d encourage others to do as you think about your own process of overcoming abuse and how to make sure those next relationships are healthy ones.
Another participant explained that he/she uses this red flag to end the relationship immediately. So, in other words, when the red flag pops up, this is the sign that the relationship needs to end. This person said, “I will never stay in an abusive relationship again. If I see a "red flag" I end it immediately.”
Similarly, someone else mentioned avoiding a potential partner with any sort of red flag as another way to stay healthy: “I avoid any man who exhibits any kind of ‘red flag’.”
Yet another participant reported that she did a background check when entering into a new relationship, just to make sure that the information learned about the other person was accurate. Doing this seemed to give this person some peace of mind, and trust that this new relationship seemed to hold promise for health. “I double checked who I was seeing to make sure the information was correct. Background checks.”
These are just a few ideas that we heard from survivors about how to look for and respond to red flags while beginning new relationships post-abuse. Trust your instincts, survivors. Look for those signs. Do a background check if need-be for peace of mind. Red flags are worth paying attention to. Thanks for reading and sharing this information with those you know, and as always, special thanks to our research participants for sharing their wisdom with us!