If you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, there are ways to break away and stop the cycle of domestic violence. I have personally experienced emotional abuse, and lived through the challenges associated with rebuilding my life.
I am here to say that it is not only possible to survive, but it is possible to thrive with the right support and commitment. With these tips, my hope is that you will feel empowered to love yourself.
1. Acknowledge the existence of abuse.
Victims tend to minimize the abuse. Abuse does not have to be physical. It is frequently emotional and/or psychological. You don’t have to wait for broken bones or a black eye before you consider it abuse. Yelling, name-calling, intimidation and threats are all forms of abuse. If you are forced to have sex without your consent, it is abuse and is sexual assault. Ask yourself: “Are you often walking on eggshells?” Keep in mind that most abusers are charming and apologetic after the abuse; there is a honeymoon period. Then predictably the tension builds followed by an explosion. Many women and men stay trapped in this cycle hoping that this time the abuse will stop.
2. Reach out for help.
Fortunately, there are many organizations (local and national) that specifically have the resources to help you. You are not alone! Your friends and family members are not necessarily the best people to help you. They mean well, but they could still be minimizing the abuse or you could jeopardize their safety by obtaining their help.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224. They will refer you to the organization in your area. Many have emergency shelters that provide many resources. If you have children, they will be able to shelter them as well. They understand and will not judge you in your predicament. They provide individual and group therapy. They will help you with legal matters such as obtaining temporary restraining orders.
3. Use a safe computer.
The National Domestic Violence website warns users to use a safe computer not accessible to the abuser as computer usage can be monitored quite easily. The website has many resources. Yes, you need to take precautions so you can be safe before you leave this relationship.
The time to be most vigilant is when the abuser realizes that you are planning to leave him or her. Have a safety plan in place. The above-mentioned website has a section to help you make these plans.
4. Make every effort to address the underlying issues that led you to being in a dysfunctional relationship.
Did you have a childhood that led you to doubt your self-worth? Although men and women (heterosexual and homosexual) of many different cultural, racial, ethnic, educational, economic groups become victimized in abusive relationships, the common denominators are lack of self-esteem and self-love.
When we stay in these relationships, we become increasingly depressed; our self-esteem plummets further. The downward spiral must be interrupted by obtaining help. If you are depressed, you probably feel tired and indecisive. Your thoughts are negative, which furthers the depressive mood. It is easy to feel trapped and hopeless, but dig deep and look for that flicker of hope. It is there!
5. Get to the bottom of things.
Are you addicted to love or the feeling of being in love? Do you equate love with pain? Those of us who felt alone, alienated and unloved growing up tend to seek out relationships early in life. However, if our parents were in an unhealthy relationship, an abusive dynamic will feel familiar and comforting.
It is vital to acknowledge, explore and heal what led you to this pattern. Otherwise, you are doomed to repeat it. Take a break from relationships for a while. Taking the time to heal is so important. If you have children, they need time to recuperate from the trauma of witnessing abuse. It is normal for you to feel angry and sad, as well as regret that you left the abuser.
Don’t wait until you don’t feel anything to leave. As dysfunctional as it was, you cared about him or her. Surround yourself with support; find a therapist who can assist you in rebuilding your self-esteem, and start rebuilding your life.
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