By Christine Murray, See the Triumph Co-Founder
Everyone has a right to safe, healthy relationships.
This statement reflects the vision guiding virtually all of my work, and especially the work we do here with See the Triumph. I believe that safe, healthy relationships should be considered a basic human right. I believe this need for safety and health extends to any type of relationship, including friendships, parent-child relationships, work and neighborhood relationships, relationships within faith communities and other community groups, and even in the small-scale mini-relationships we have in our everyday lives, even down to the people whose paths we cross on the street.
This month, however, we are turning our focus specifically to intimate relationships, and in particular, we are delving into the issue of safe and healthy intimate relationships for survivors of past intimate partner violence. We know this is a challenging area for many survivors, and it’s also an important one.
It’s an unfortunate stereotype that survivors of abuse are somehow destined to repeat their past and bounce from one abusive relationship to another. Of course, some people do experience multiple abusive relationships. However, this stereotype reflects the victim-blaming attitudes that are pervasive in society, and it can lead some survivors to believe that they are doomed to a lifetime of unhappy, unsafe relationships.
As with all of our work, we honor survivors’ right and ability to make the best possible decisions for their own lives. Therefore, one of the choices we’ll highlight this month is the decision that some survivors make to decide to abstain from intimate relationships, either for a season of their lives of for their lifetime. This is certainly an understandable and valid choice, and survivors who make this choice should be honored and supported in this decision.
For those survivors who are interested in establishing and maintaining safe, healthy intimate relationships, our research offers hope that this is possible. Across all of our studies, our research has involved hundreds of survivors of past abusive relationships. In order to be eligible to participate, they were required to have been out of any abusive relationships for at least two years, and many of our participants were out of abusive relationships for much longer than that. This fact alone demonstrates that it is possible to achieve lasting safety following an abusive relationship. Beyond this, we also heard stories from our research participants that provide numerous examples that healthy, fulfilling, and safe relationships are possible for survivors of abuse. We will highlight some of these in a post later this month.
In addition, this month we’ll explore some unique challenges that survivors may experience as they seek and maintain future intimate relationships. Because the past abuse occurred in what was supposed to have been a loving, intimate partnership, it’s very natural that people who have experienced abuse may face some challenges in navigating the many challenges that are inherent to intimate relationships. We’ll share some examples of how survivors who participated in our research navigated these challenges, as well as offer some suggestions for promoting safety and satisfaction in future romantic relationships.
We look forward to delving into this complex, important topic with you this month! As always, we invite you to share your own ideas, suggestions, and experiences with us and others in the See the Triumph community throughout the series.