blog-posters-courtney

I See DV in the Red Flags

This post is by a very talented writer and brave survivor, Courtney Queeney. We were moved by Courtney’s article in the New York Times “The View From the Victim Room” which detailed her experience of renewing an emergency protective order. Today, she shares with us how she saw domestic violence red flags in her past relationship. 

blog-posters-courtneyAfter my ex-boyfriend punched, choked and kicked me one night, I spent a few days in shock. I couldn’t figure out how I had gotten into such a relationship in the first place.

When I reflected on the span of our relationship, the red flags were glaring.

Red Flag: He pursued me for months before I eventually said yes, because after all, I’d met him through a mutual acquaintance and he was a certified yoga instructor. With those credentials he must have been safe, although I was uncomfortable as early as our second date, when he professed his love.

Red Flag: He isolated me from my friends, family, and favorite activities. At first, he was sad to see me go home; then I was staying away from him too long, depriving him of my company so I could write, look for jobs and feed my cat. If I went out with friends, he’d text during the night to tell me how much he missed me. He didn’t want me to have a job, because that would have subtracted from his time, and allowed me greater financial freedom.

Red Flag: He sulked when I didn’t want to sleep with him, like a child who had just been sent to bed without his dessert. Post-breakup, his objectification of women as sexual objects became even more disturbing in both his art and his writing. He’d written about a fantasy he had of flaying an ex so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the death threats he sent me involved him raping me, then attacking the body parts specifically identifying me as female; he didn’t, for example, want to kick me in the shins.)

Red Flag:  The messages he sent after I broke up with him were even more transparently disturbing: I was clearly responsible for his behavior. Why did you provoke me? he wrote. (For the record, I had knocked on a bathroom door, worried he was going to pass out.) He wrote I’m sorry for the way things went down that night. He used the passive tense; he didn’t write: I hit you. Or: I was on drugs. Or: I choked you. Or: I kicked you. In the same message, he wrote: Can you somehow get beyond it? Please find a way to forgive me. Somehow, as a woman, it was my job to make the situation better for him.

Red Flag: He was irrationally jealous of my male friends. When I went to visit two of them for a week, he refused to get out of bed, texting me pitiful messages about how he couldn’t wait until I came home. He set his computer up so I had my own desktop, though I repeatedly told him not to bother. I later learned that monitoring someone’s computer and phone are classic red flags.

Red Flag: After he’d hurt me so badly my ER doctor kept looking at the scans of my face and repeating I can’t believe nothing is broken, I was still responsible for his weight loss, his family asking about my abrupt disappearance, his loneliness, his insomnia and panic attacks.

Red Flag: He repeatedly wrote that he couldn’t live without me. One night, he cut himself badly with a knife and couldn’t staunch the bleeding. When his incessant attempts to contact me suddenly stopped, I knew he’d acted on these threats, probably on my birthday. If he’d succeeded in his suicide attempt, it would have been the ultimate punishment: I would have to carry that guilt for the rest of my life. I don’t think he meant to succeed; it was a play for my sympathy.

I was lucky. I glossed over red flag after red flag, but when it was my relationship or my life, I chose life. I just wish I’d done it sooner.

About Our Contributor: 

Courtney Queeney is the author of Filibuster to Delay a Kiss (Random House). She lives in Chicago.

Mary Kay survey

Get Back Your Green: Tips for Economic Recovery After Abuse

“Money makes the world go round.” If you’ve ever struggled with money, you know the truth behind that frustrating saying. Financial issues can make you feel stuck, like your whole world is on hold. For someone leaving abuse or thinking about leaving, this can be one of biggest factors that gets in the way.

A survey sponsored by Mary Kay, Inc. in 2012 found that 74% of survivors stayed with an abusive partner for longer than they wanted to because of financial concerns. It’s also one of the main barriers for those who are trying to leave.

Exiting an abusive situation is more challenging if a victim is stressing about finances while trying to rebuild their life. Financial difficulties can also be a reason victims return to abusers.

In a time when there are so many other things to think about and plan for, how do you safeguard against some of the financial risks that come with leaving?  We’ve put together some tips for economic safety and recovery that are helpful right after leaving. Please know that these may not be the right options for everyone. Please evaluate your own situation, and keep your safety in mind.


Securing your financial information

If your ex has knowledge of or access to your passwords, SSN, credit card statements or other identifying info, it could be a good idea to take measures to keep your personal info safe.

Call banks, credit card companies and utility companies (including wireless phone services) to change your account numbers, PIN numbers and passwords. Change the passwords to online banking and email accounts.

Close any joint credit cards. You may consider opening your own checking account and applying for a credit card if you don’t already have one, in order to start building your own credit history.

To further secure your financial information, open a P.O. box for mail and any financial documents you might receive.

Accessing your credit report

A credit report shows if bills and loans have been paid on time and if there are any outstanding loans or money owed. You can request a free copy of your credit report from any of the following agencies — and that’s a good place to start. Review your credit report at least once a year.

Equifax at 1-800-525-6285

Experian at 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)

TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289

Annual Credit Report at 1-877-322-8228

Credit reports can determine the amount and interest rate of loans you apply for. A good credit history is also important for renting a home, getting insurance, applying for a job and more — employers, insurance companies and creditors often check your credit report.

Addressing and rebuilding a bad credit report

In starting to repair a bad credit score, remember to make consistent payments on rent and loans. While these often won’t show up on your credit report, you can ask landlords, utility companies and other creditors to supply this info when you’re applying for credit. A record of on-time payments looks good.

You can also ask these people to write positive credit reference letters for you when you’re applying for credit.

Building up a good credit score takes time, but paying bills on time, paying off debt, correcting and disputing any mistakes and refraining from building up additional debt are steps in the right direction.


Additional Resources

Local domestic violence programs have different resources you can access for support and these programs can also help with your safety concerns after leaving. If you call NDVH at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) our advocates can locate programs in your community.

  • The Allstate Foundation’s Click to Empower is an organization designed specifically to assist survivors with economic challenges. They have online resources, courses and grants to help survivors “get safe, stay safe and thrive.”
  • The Women’s Institute for Financial Education (WIFE) has many helpful articles in the Divorce category.
  • Women’s Law includes more information on financial protections to take if you’re getting ready to leave or have just left an abusive relationship.

Are you a survivor who faced financial hardships once you left? How did you handle financial obstacles?

coping through counseling

Coping Through Counseling

Sometimes we all want a miracle solution for our problems. Especially after getting out of a bad relationship, the natural desire is to just feel better, now. It may be a frustrating saying, but time does heal wounds. While counseling isn’t an instant fix, the process is truly what’s important. Taking all the time you need to explore the past and think about the future can be invaluable in strengthening and rebuilding your life.

Today we’re continuing our conversation with clinical psychologist Martha Ramos Duffer to learn more about the ins and outs of deciding to start counseling, and how you can tell if it’s working for you.


Some people want to know that therapy is working. What is a good indicator of this?

At the beginning of the therapeutic process, every therapist and client should work together to identify goals and specific ways that they will know they’re moving toward those goals. This can be helpful in determining if therapy is working for you. Overall every therapy that is working will, over time, result in a person feeling increased self-awareness, capacity to choose, clarity and peace.

If you want to have the luxury of your own space to explore yourself then individual therapy is great for that. In individual therapy you can explore your own feelings and goals much more deeply.

Is therapy for everyone? When’s the right time to start therapy?

If you feel that therapy might be helpful, sooner is always better. Therapy can be beneficial for everyone because it’s a place where you can learn increased self-awareness, clarify your goals and look at the choices in front of you.

That being said, there are many things in life that can be therapeutic. If you don’t feel comfortable with therapy there are other healing practices you can explore like journaling, spending time in nature, cultivating friendships and networks, being part of community groups or volunteering. There are many activities that can be as healing as therapy.

What are the differences between group counseling and individual counseling?

In general, both can be very beneficial, and I would recommend that people consider the type that they feel most comfortable in. If you want to focus more on interpersonal skills, want to know how you come across to other people, and want to hear from experiences from other people in their growth processes, then group counseling is wonderful for that.

What advice would you give someone who is apprehensive about counseling?

Entering counseling does not necessarily mean that you are mentally ill or can’t cope on your own. Therapy is about how much you’re putting in place to support yourself in healing and succeeding.


Have you thought that therapy might be a good choice for you? Whether you’re struggling in an abusive relationship or trying to heal after leaving one, getting in touch with a counselor to strengthen your support system can have a powerful effect. Give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE and our advocates can help you locate counselors in your area.

Further Reading

In our post on Counseling for Domestic Violence Survivors we talk more about breaking the isolation of domestic violence by seeking counseling and support.

This PDF brochure from the National Association of Social Workers has a helpful checklist of positive indicators when determining if your counselor is the right fit for you.

finding the right counselor for you

Finding the Right Counselor for You

The idea of sharing personal stories and emotions can be scary, especially if you’re still feeling hurt or vulnerable from a breakup. Delving into these difficult feelings can ultimately be one of the most helpful ways to cope and move on. That’s where counseling comes in. Talking with someone one-on-one in a safe space is a great option for anyone who may need support.

To learn more about the process of starting counseling, we met up with licensed clinical psychologist and motivational speaker Martha Ramos Duffer whose work is centered on trauma treatment, empowerment and personal growth. She provided us with incredibly helpful information on how to choose a counselor.


What are the differences between a counselor, therapist, psychologist and psychiatrist? Who would you suggest for someone who has left an abusive relationship?

That’s an important place to start. The words psychotherapist, therapist and counselor are all used interchangeably. These are people who have received master’s degrees in counseling, social work or psychology. Psychologists have more training because they are doctorate level therapists. Any of these professionals can do a great job providing therapy.

On the other hand, psychiatrists have a doctorate in medicine. In most states they are the only ones who can prescribe medicine and most don’t provide therapy. What most often happens is that somebody who needs medication will see a psychologist or other licensed counselor for therapy and see a psychiatrist for medication.

It’s important to make sure the professional you decide to speak with is a licensed mental health professional. Terms like “licensed professional counselor” are legally regulated, so not just anybody can call themselves that. Words like “counselor” or “coach” are not regulated, so anybody can call themselves that.

What are the steps to take in order to find the right counselor?

The first thing to think about is financial access. Will you try to use insurance to pay? If not, will you pay out of pocket and do you need sliding scale fees? Some therapists offer varying prices based on the client’s income level.

Some communities also have local mental health centers with low fees. If you’re just leaving an abusive relationship and you don’t have access to funds or insurance, see if one of these exists in your area.

If you have insurance, call and request a list of mental health care providers. After you have a list, you can begin to ask around to see which of these professionals are recommended by others. If you’re coming out of a shelter, ask the people who work there for recommendations. Ask friends and family if anybody has seen a mental health professional who has worked well for them.

If your friends and family members haven’t used mental health professionals, there are other options. Ask for recommendations from other health professionals in the community, like your physician or even other psychologists. Psychology Today is also a useful site where many mental health professionals advertise, allowing you to read doctors’ bios and research more options in your area.

Call several different therapists and talk with them before setting up an appointment. This lets you determine how comfortable you feel and how responsive they are. Ask if they have expertise working with clients who have experienced trauma and domestic violence.

What are some red flags that indicate that a therapist may not understand domestic violence or aren’t a good fit for you?

If a therapist gets defensive when you ask them if they have experience with trauma and domestic violence, then it is likely that they are not well trained in that area.

Another huge red flag is if a therapist wants to begin by looking at your role in the relationship and treats the abuse as a mutual-fault issue. That doesn’t mean that in complex ways we don’t all play a role in every dynamic but that’s not how to treat a survivor of domestic violence. If they start to discuss the situation as if it was a traditional marriage or relationship issue and try to explore your own role in triggering or participating in the abuse, this is a clear sign they don’t understand domestic violence.

If a counselor recommends couples therapy or marriage therapy, this is also a red flag. This is not recommended when there’s battering and violence in a relationship.

How do you know a counselor is a good fit for you?

A good match between therapist and client is one of the most powerful healing factors in a therapeutic relationship. Look for someone who makes you feel heard, understood, safe and comfortable.

If you don’t feel this way, it makes sense to look for someone else. However, it’s important to first ask yourself what is making you uncomfortable. Is your discomfort coming from how difficult it is to talk about this? Of course you’re going to feel badly as you start to talk about what happened. There are all kinds of things that can make a first session not feel good, and you need to discern if your discomfort is because starting the process is difficult, or because you don’t feel heard and understood by the counselor.


Check the blog on Wednesday for the second part of our interview with Martha.

survivor stories

Shared Voices PT 2: Your Stories of Life After Abuse

Yesterday we shared some survivor’s stories that we were fortunate enough to have received from our inspirational Facebook community. These stories expressed the patience and hope needed to rebuild your life after abuse, and we heard from survivors in all different stages of healing. Some shared their feelings on whether or not they’d want another relationship. Many spoke about how important it is to spend time focusing on yourself and your own pursuits and learning to love yourself.

We’re so thankful for everyone who was able to share their personal stories with us, and we hope that reading these will inspire courage and hope, no matter what your situation may be.


Today we’re continuing to share these inspirational stories, with a focus on survivors who have found love after abuse and are starting a new chapter of their lives with a partner.

Melissa’s Story

I am a survivor of both sexual and domestic abuse.

I’ve been with my love for 3 years now… 2 years after I left a long, emotionally and physically abusive relationship that I cycled through for almost 6 years. The man I love today is the most gentle, loving, caring and supportive man I have ever met. He showed me that there are good guys who do nice things just because they are nice and they love and resort women.

I had found a rare gem of a loving man. I asked him to be official and we’ve been together ever since. He’s supported my return to college (I graduate this May!!!) as well as supported me emotionally as I continue to deal with the lasting effects of the abuse I have experienced in my life.

He has never once raised his voice, or his hand. He doesn’t have one aggressive bone in his body. In 3 years we have never had a fight, we have discussions. Finding love after abuse has been the miracle I’ve been waiting for my whole life…  I found love when I wasn’t even looking and life has been So Amazing since.

Andrea’s Story

I did! I am so blessed to have found such a kind, loving and patient man who loves me and my children. When I was with my abuser, I dreamt of being with someone that was loving and affectionate. Somehow, this dream has become a reality and I am thankful everyday that he is in my life.

Celeste’s Story

I got married a year and a half after I left my abuser. I know my worth and don’t let anyone or anything take me to a place where I can’t grow or prosper. I learned the value of the word NO. No, I can’t do that because it’s not in line with my goals. Or, no, that just isn’t true. I love the me I am today, but am really excited about the me I am becoming.

Curtis’s Story

It took time to discover who I really was – uncover the “real me” beneath the abuse. I started this process before leaving my abuser and it gave me the strength to realize that I had a better life head of me.

Now that I am comfortable with who I am and what I want to do with my life, I have found that I am able to love. I have an amazing partner who is my best friend. I feel free to express myself however I want to – through dance, song, jokes, and general happiness – and I feel respected in my thoughts and opinions. I truly believe that we are equals, that we compliment each other, and that our individual strengths and weaknesses are complimentary… not curses.

I think of her happiness regularly, and see how well it supplements my own happiness. After more than two years and countless struggles with my former spouse in court, we still have “young love”. Thank you for being my rock, my soft place, and my everything, Candice!

Shanna’s Story

I left my abusive ex-husband five years ago. My kids and I spent time in a DV shelter until we could get back on our feet. For a while, I felt like I had lost everything.

I married a wonderful, kind, caring, patient man last year. We still have to deal with my ex on a fairly consistent basis. It doesn’t strain our relationship, which is amazing to me. He helps me know that I am not the person my ex led me to believe I was. Re-finding myself after the years of horror I lived through has been a stressful, freeing, exciting journey.

Julie’s Story

A long road, but worth the journey. Yes, I did remarry 13 years after leaving my abuser.

Donna’s Story

I have had an amazing man for 7 years!! He is kind, never puts me down, very supportive, never calls me names or abuses, not jealous and so much more!!! I could not imagine life without him!! Thank god I am free!!

Teresa’s Story

I was in an abusive marriage for nearly 19 years. It took me a good year or more to PLAN my escape. And another 2 years to have the divorce completed after safely separating (moved all the way from New Jersey to Arizona with 2 teens and a toddler). Happy to say, that I found a wonderful man and we have been married 7 years. Who knew life could be so peaceful?

Connie’s Story

Yes, I did. We have just celebrated our 10th anniversary this year!

Lizz’s Story

YES! I was in an abusive relationship/marriage for 14-years. The abuse I suffered was not kind. I literally ran for my life from that relationship on August 24, 2001. I’ve never looked back. It was a couple of years before I dated… I needed to get back to being ME before I could even think of a relationship.

On a fluke I met a wicked nice, funny, hard working, loving, kind man online. Flew from SoCal to NH to meet him. Spent two weeks together. Came back out a month later for a week. Two months later I moved to NH for good. I feel like I was one of the lucky ones. Got out alive and found a wonderful man. Life is good.

Jennifer’s Story

I did. My wonderful husband and I have been together 8 years, married 6 1/2.

life after abuse

Shared Voices: Your Stories of Life After Abuse

Those who have left an abusive relationship many times come face to face with new challenges and a complicated healing and recovery process. Last month we explored this topic of life after abuse and asked our Facebook community to share their own experiences finding happiness with a new partner.

The responses were powerful and enlightening. We heard from survivors in all stages of recovery. Many shared messages of their courage and openness to try to find love again, and we were reminded that rebuilding your life after abuse can take time and space.


Here are some survivors who shared their unique stories of hope and patience:

Kathy’s Story

It took a great amount of time to heal after being with someone of that nature. But, not everyone is a bad person so hopefully one day I will meet a kind person.

Mary’s Story

6 yrs later, I have not found happiness with a new partner… I’m still trying to be happy with myself first.

Ashley’s Story

I still haven’t found anyone after my 2 divorces, but for the past 2 years now I’ve come to see it is alright to just let go and allow the healing to flow. I still have a hard time with nightmares and flash backs, I’ve just barely been able to be around coworker males when they use knives for jobs we do. But the progress is steady. One day I hope to be blessed with a loving partner as well. But for now, I am just going to care for me.

Bethann’s Story

I was in an abusive relationship for two years. It’ll be a year next month since I left. While I haven’t found a “new love”, I have started dating again. I’m positive I will find someone worthy of my time and love someday though.

Johanna’s Story

I don’t have a partner but I’m really happy being single, my son is the only love of my life right now. After a really bad relationship, a relationship is not in my plans for a while. But I trust God one day I am going to find a good person for me and my son.

Anna’s Story

I am so much calmer, and have emotional energy for my kids now to be the example I have wanted to be. Before, I was just so busy trying to survive — I was often short with them or emotionally unavailable. Now, I show them everyday what awesome kids they are, and how to live happily and peacefully. It is hard being a single mom, but it was much, much harder being an abused mom!


We also received many stories from survivors who have found focusing on their own personal goals and happiness to be an important part of the healing process.

Katrina’s Story           

It has been nine years. I didn’t find a partner yet but by choice. I did however go to work at a domestic violence shelter, earned a bachelors, then my masters and now I am a licensed social worker who specializes in therapy with trauma/domestic violence/sexual assault. It has been nine years of recovery as a single mom with five kids but I am here to say it can be done!

It has been a journey for sure. Of my five children 2 are in college and one graduates this year to go to college. 2 of the 3 are earning social work degrees and the third one is looking at political science/policy setting. Education is empowerment.

I was fresh out of my marriage and trying to make sense of it all. I became a volunteer advocate (DV and SA) then later the Children’s Program Coordinator. I worked up from there! My initial framework and knowledge base that I learned as a volunteer has shaped my entire role as a therapist. Don’t give up!!! I know it seems forever but now I look back and never ever would have believed I would have been here! I was a stay at home mother in a rural area, cloaked with religion as a reason to stay and completely under his thumb. Today I am independent and so much happier. Hang in there!!!

And happiness did follow! Every time I take the kids to the park or movies without fear, every time we can stay up late or sleep in, without fear… every time I can speak to somebody without fear… happiness abounds!

Christina’s Story

I’ve been single for four years now since I’ve left my abuser. A little bit of dating here & there, but I enjoy being single & learning to love myself so that my daughter can have a happy mother that doesn’t believe that she always has to be in a relationship to be happy or successful. I do have to say I’m a lot happier & healthier. Take time for yourself to enjoy your own company and learn. Share that with your children if you have kids and embrace it. You have plenty of time to meet someone. There’s no rush and even if you never meet someone, it’s better to be single and happy than in a relationship and miserable! Keep loving, keep fighting.

Andrea’s Story

I have not, however I did fall into the wonderful arms of a great job that allows me to support my 4 wonderful boys, and my own personal dreams both professionally and personally. Life is beyond anything I ever imagined.

Marissa’s Story

Finding happiness isn’t always through finding someone else. I haven’t found love yet, but I have become a nurse and am continuing with my master’s degree. Freedom to make one’s own choices and being independent is such a reward.

amandas story

Life and Love After Abuse: Amanda’s Story

Last month, we took to Facebook to discuss life after an abusive relationship. We asked the community to share their own stories, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Survivors shared their uplifting experiences of finding love and starting over after abuse, and there was no shortage of support and encouraging messages for those struggling to heal.

Today we’re excited to publish Amanda’s story, which details her journey from a victim of domestic violence to an empowered new bride. We hope you are as inspired at her strength and hopeful spirit as we are. A very special thanks to Amanda for having the courage to share her experience with us.


In response to your Facebook post: I am one of those who found love after abuse.

I was married to a physically, emotionally and sexual abusive man for five years — I was choked, beaten, thrown into walls, raped and made to feel completely worthless. In March 2010, I incorporated my “safety plan” and left my husband.

From March 2010 through March 2011 (while my divorce was going on), I spent A LOT of time reading books on domestic violence, reading blogs of survivors, researching information on websites like yours and also working closely with a therapist. I just read and learned everything I could about domestic violence as I knew that I wanted to one day be in a healthy relationship and not stay trapped in the “cycle.” I wanted to become a healthy and happy domestic violence survivor.

In April 2011, I was asked out on a date by a man that I had known from a distance. I was terrified to trust again (yes, even if it was just a little date), but I knew from all of the research that I had done that he was a good and honest man. Our first dinner date turned into a picnic and hike which turned into several more weeks of dating which lead to us becoming “a couple.”

Being part of “a couple” — in a healthy relationship — was amazing and terrifying at the same. Amazing because I forgot how wonderful a healthy relationship was, but terrifying because I was afraid that (A) something in our relationship would cause him to “turn” and (B) I was afraid my ex would come after me or my boyfriend. However, through all of my healing and research, I knew that option “A” wasn’t going to happen. And thankfully, option “B” didn’t happen either.

Through this relationship, I learned what a real man was — real men treat you with complete respect. They are caring, gentle and kind. They love you for who you are — your likes, dislikes, goals and ideas. They will NEVER EVER hurt you physically, emotionally or sexually. And one of the most important things, especially for a domestic violence survivor, is that they are patient with you. I can’t tell you how many times I had to either stop doing something, leave a place or just needed to be comforted due to some “trigger” from my past. A real man will be there for you, he will help you heal by showing you what real love is.

Two years later, on March 30th, 2013, I got to marry this absolutely amazing man. I have a husband that I (once) never thought existed. My marriage is wonderful, it’s free of abuse, or fear. Our home is our a happy place, filled with love.

Finding love, or even being willing to trust someone, after being in an abusive relationship is extremely scary. I do believe that my key to “finding love” was allowing myself time to heal, to grieve and to learn as much as possible about abusive personalities and what healthy relationships consist of.

The photo here is from our recent wedding — yes, I’m a blissful bride. And I’m so thankful that I can say that I HAVE found love after abuse!

*Photo credit: Kristen Eson, Arden Photography

recommended books

Life After Abuse: Helpful Books to Check Out

Moving on from an abusive relationship can be an incredibly hard process. If you find yourself struggling to cope and heal, consider a trip to a bookstore or the library to pick up one of these books.

1)  After abuse ends, feelings of inadequacy and shame can last. In The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, author Brené Brown explores these difficult emotions and places importance on accepting imperfection and vulnerability. She guides readers through a process of beginning to “engage with the world from a place of worthiness” and learning to love yourself just as you are.

2) Author Pema Chödrön echoes Brown’s advice in her own book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Through an explanation of basic Buddhist beliefs, she instructs readers on how to cope with the difficulty of the past and present. Her text is filled with positive affirmations while she discusses communication, reversing habitual patterns, using pain to cultivate courage, and more.

3) If you’ve recently left a relationship and you have children, their wellbeing will undoubtedly be one of the most important concerns through your own healing process. In When Dad Hurts Mom: Helping Your Children Heal the Wounds of Witnessing Abuse, Lundy Bancroft offers advice for how to talk with your kids about the abuse, help them deal with the separation, and rebuild your life together.

4) Figuring out where to begin again after a relationship ends can leave survivors feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. It’s My Life Now: Starting Over After an Abusive Relationship or Domestic Violence by Meg Kennedy Dugan and Roger R. Hock discusses this complicated and frightening time. The book acts as a manual for rebuilding your life after abuse, by focusing on strategies for recovery, learning how to establish healthy relationships in the future, and more.

5) One of the essential ways to begin coping with abuse is to start to understand the dynamics of the abuse: why it happened, why your abuser didn’t change, and why it wasn’t your fault. In Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, Lundy Bancroft addresses all of that and more, painting a clear picture to help survivors (or those still in an abusive relationship) understand what they’ve gone through.

6) Even long after abuse, experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be common. Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence: A Workbook for Women by Mari McCaig and Edward S. Kubany is full of trauma recovery techniques called ‘cognitive trauma therapy’ to help cope with the aftermath of abuse. The book contains exercises for breaking down negative thoughts, dispelling feelings of helplessness, and beginning a happier, healthier life.

If you’re struggling with abuse or have left an abusive relationship, what books have you read? Which were most helpful?

online dating

Reboot Your Love Life with Online Dating

If you’re considering dating after domestic violence, one venue for meeting a partner is a bit more 21st century than bumping into someone at the bar. It’s the same place where you’ve started managing bank accounts, reading the news, and selling your old stuff: the internet.

Some people shy away from the idea of online dating, but in today’s tech-driven world, it’s no longer as awkward as you may have thought. It can be a comfortable way to get to know someone before meeting him or her in person.

If you’re considering turning to a dating website to meet new people, it’s important to remember a few safety tips as well as red flags to look out for.

Read the warning signs 

In the wake of Manti Te’o’s online girlfriend hoax, the term “catfishing” has become synonymous with someone making up an online identity to trick people into a relationship. The potential to be duped shouldn’t deter anyone from online dating — but if you’re just beginning to meet people online, trusting your instinct is important.

There are some warning signs that might indicate that the person you’re speaking with is less than genuine, has questionable intentions or is already involved/married. Some of these signs could be:

  • Not posting any pictures of themselves online, or posting only a dark picture that is difficult to see
  • Contacting you only irregularly/off and on
  • Asking for your phone number but refusing to give you theirs
  • Showing reluctance to meet up in person, even after lots of online correspondence
  • Telling a lot of different stories or facts that don’t quite “add up”

Set boundaries online and date safely

If you’re suspicious of a photo, try doing a “reverse image search” on Google Images to see if these photos are coming up elsewhere on the Internet. To do a reverse image search, click and drag a photo into the search box on Google Images. Learn more on this type of search.

Create a separate e-mail account with a free service like Gmail to use just for your online dating activity. If an address is required to register for a site, consider getting a post office box instead of using your home address.

Install a free “privacy checker” on your computer and check privacy standards of the dating website that you are using.

Pay attention to your own online presence. Double check the privacy settings on social networking sites you use to see how much info about yourself is available to the public. Just as you may be looking up a potential date, it’s possible that they will be doing the same.

Be honest when filling out your profile, but avoid giving out personal information (phone number, address, full name). If you’re chatting/e-mailing with a potential date, don’t give out too much personal info in your messages — a good rule of thumb is to stay on a first name basis until the first date.

Remember that your online profile isn’t the right place to divulge personal info about your past relationships. There will be plenty of time after your first date to share more personal information.

If you have children, think about keeping them and your dating life separate for their own safety. While you may choose to list that you have children on your profile, avoid posting photos of them.

If you’re skeptical about something an online admirer is telling you, ask a friend. An outside perspective can be very helpful if something doesn’t feel right.

Consider talking on the phone before an in-person date. Give out your cell number instead of home or work phone numbers, or use a public phone.

If you do decide to meet someone “offline” and in person, there are safe dating tips to keep in mind such as meeting in a public place and having backup in the form of a friend to call.

Find a reputable site that works for you

Online dating allows you to be selective from the get-go. Many dating websites cost money to use, but this often means the people you’ll find on the site are as committed to finding a date as you are. Here are some that we know to be widely used:

HowAboutWe: It boasts over 1,000,000 users and has been transforming traditional first dates for users. To get started, just post a date idea beginning with the words “How about we…”

AARP Dating: They’ve partnered with HowAboutWe to make their own site for the older generation, which makes online dating all about getting offline. The site even offers clever first date ideas: “How about we go to a museum and take turns pretending to be a tour guide — we’ll just make it all up.”

Match: The most well known dating site, which claims that it’s responsible for more dates, relationships and marriages than any other dating site. It’s more geared toward middle-aged and older daters than sites like OkCupid. Match emphasizes safe online and offline dating.

Single Parent Match, Christian Mingle and JDate are just a few examples of the many “niche” sites geared toward people with specific interests or beliefs who are looking to date a specific type of person.

Thinking what you want in a potential partner can be a good first step when you’re beginning online dating. This will help you write your profile accordingly and look for potential “matches.” Remember to practice safe dating both on and offline, and most importantly: Have fun!

moving on after abuse

Finding Closure After Abuse

Moving on after any breakup is challenging, but healing after an abusive relationship can be especially difficult. Sure, all breakups have their aftermath of sadness and loss, but for someone transitioning from victim to survivor, the fallout may include continued harassment or attacks. The resulting ongoing mental trauma and emotional stress can make a survivor question — was leaving really worth it?

We’re here to say YES. Yes, leaving is worth it. Why is moving on after abuse so difficult? Because abuse is rooted in power and control, and an abuser holds that power by minimizing their partner’s self-esteem and breaking their spirit. If you’re leaving an abusive relationship, rebuilding your life can be a hard process, but with time and space, finding closure and peace is possible. A violence-free life is waiting, and you are so very worth it.

How do you start to move on? Here are some tips for moving past the experience of abuse into a safer, happier reality.


1. Cut Off Contact With Your Ex

During the healing process, you may feel the need to offer forgiveness, help your abuser through the break up, or show your abuser how you’re better off. However, it’s difficult to really get closure without severing all ties with your ex.

Try different methods to avoid contacting your former partner. Delete their phone number and change yours. If you’re picking up the phone to call, put the phone in a different room and walk away.

Resist the urge to look them up on social media. Unfriend or block them, and if pictures or news keep popping up, it could be helpful to remove mutual friends as well.

Try writing a letter with all the things you want to say to your abuser and don’t send it — or, if you’re in counseling, send it to your therapist instead.

2. Surround Yourself With Support

After an abusive relationship, allow yourself to get help and support from others. Spend time with friends and family who care about you. Tell them what you need from them, whether that’s someone to talk to about what you went through, or someone to keep you from answering phone calls from your ex, stop you from texting back, etc.

If your abuser isolated you from friends and family, you may find that you no longer have that support network — but there are always people who want to help. Consider finding a counselor to talk with one-on-one, or join a support group. If you call NDVH, one of our advocates can connect you to services in your area.

3. Take Care of Yourself

Taking care of yourself is such an important part of the healing process, and that begins with understanding that the abuse that happened wasn’t your fault.

Find things that make you happy. Rediscovering what hobbies you enjoy can be a learning process, but that’s half of the fun. Join clubs or try activities like a group fitness class to meet new people.

If you have children, find ways to make time for yourself. Some gyms offer free childcare while you work out, and different domestic violence centers provide childcare while you’re attending support groups.

Praise yourself for accomplishments, little or big, and counter any negative self-talk with positive mantras or affirmations. Becoming aware of what you think and say about yourself can help shift negative thoughts.

4. Remember That You Will Get Better With Time

The old saying that “time heals all wounds” can be incredibly frustrating, but there is truth in it. Recovery does take time and space. Give yourself as much time as you need to heal.

Recovery looks different for everyone, and each person has to find what works for them. Have you left an abusive relationship? What have you found to be helpful in recovering? What would you recommend to others who are coping with moving on after abuse?

life after abuse

Dating After Domestic Violence

Dating after domestic violence can be nerve-wracking and complicated. If you’ve experienced domestic violence, you might have more trouble connecting with potential romantic partners, you might have a hard time trusting people or you might find that your perception of what is healthy/unhealthy in a relationship was warped by your abuser.

If you’re considering beginning a new relationship after experiencing domestic violence, here are some things that you should consider.

Move on Before You Start Something New

Domestic violence can leave behind physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime. Before you start a new relationship, make sure that you have begun to cope with the things that you experienced in your past abusive relationship. Seek counseling to help you work through your emotional pain and connect with your local domestic violence program to get support. Sever ties with your ex if possible (this is a bit more complicated when you have children with them) and if not possible, develop a system for safe interaction. Before you begin a new relationship, make sure that you are over your old one.

Educate Yourself

Learning about what domestic violence is and what the red flag warning signs for abuse are can help you find a healthy relationship. Make a list of healthy relationship characteristics and respectful partner traits and look for a relationship that matches with those standards.

Trust Your Instincts

If you begin dating and start to notice things about your partner that make you uncomfortable, if you start seeing red flag behaviors in your relationship or if your partner begins doing some of the same unhealthy things that your ex used to do, take heed. Don’t minimize questionable behaviors or write them off as personality traits. If you feel like something isn’t right, then trust your instincts. If you feel safe talking to your new partner about what you’ve noticed, then do that. See how they react to being confronted — that will show you a lot about who they are. If you want to talk to someone about the things that you’ve noticed, you can always call us to get feedback.

Practice Safe Dating

Regardless of whether you’ve been in an abusive relationship before or not, practicing safe dating is important when beginning a relationship. Making sure that you meet your partner at the location of your first few dates, rather than letting them drive you, spending time together in public at first and making sure that someone you trust knows your whereabouts are all ways to stay safe when dating. This will also help you to know that you can trust your partner as the relationship becomes more serious.

Take Things Slow

This may go hand in hand with practicing safe dating, but it’s worth saying again. Take your time in getting to know your partner and letting them know you. Develop a trusting partnership where both of you are comfortable expressing your needs, wants and thoughts. Make sure that the relationship is mutually beneficial and that both of you are happy. Treat your partner with respect and demand that they do the same for you. Don’t rush into a relationship. Take your time.

If you are considering dating after domestic violence, feel free to give us a call. Our advocates can talk with you about what you’re feeling and about any concerns that you have: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

A Letter To My Daughter About Fighting Back

Parents naturally want to shield their children from pain. But what happens when a parent’s own painful past can provide guidance to their child? Should that trauma be revisited? In today’s post, our talented guest writer, Sarah Tuttle-Singer, does just that, as she shares with her daughter the lessons she learned through leaving a terrifying relationship.

In this brave letter, Sarah opens up about a trusted partner turning violent. Sarah tells the story of her abuse, from the first, “This isn’t happening” to the final assurance to her daughter, “It didn’t happen again.”

We’re delighted to share this incredibly powerful piece with you. We hope you find courage in Sarah’s words and are reminded that your voice, and your story, matter.

This piece originally appeared on Kveller.com. For more personal essays from Jewish women and mothers, sign up for their free newsletter.


To My Darling Daughter,

I watch your eyes glow when the kids in preschool want to play with you. I see how it matters to you what they say and how they smile.

I watch your bottom lip tremble when someone hurts your feelings.

And I watch you on the playground–your face flushed, and your breath staggered as you chase the child that was mean to you. I know you, and I know you are blaming yourself for their bad behavior.

I know you are trying to get a second chance at friendships not worth having.

You are so much like me that it takes my breath away.

Please. Don’t be this way.

And this is why I am telling you this story–in bits and pieces. Starting now, and ending when you’re older and we can sit down together over a glass of wine and really talk.

Before I met your father, I lived with someone else.

Things were very, very good–we’d eat Chinese takeout together and watch The Simpsons. We’d go for walks at midnight, holding hands and watching our breath mingle in the piercing night. We’d share a lemon chicken hot dog with sauerkraut, and smoke a bowl, and laugh and laugh and laugh.

We shared an apartment with big windows facing the San Francisco Bay. If you stood on the arm of the couch, you could see the Bay Bridge. I hung Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” over our bed. We were going to get married. We were going to have children.

And then, two years later, something changed.

It wasn’t subtle. It wasn’t slow. It was an immediate about-face that started one night–although I can’t remember how. Something about money? Something about work?

But it happened. A cruelness slithered across his face, and took hold. And I was stunned to respond. I thought I could fix it. I thought I could fix him.

But it got worse. Because it always gets worse.

You ask me why I don’t like cats, my darling daughter. I used to love cats. I had two of them when I lived with this man. And when the cats got fleas, I watched him dunk their furry bodies into the bathtub, and when they hissed and clawed, terrified out of their soaked skins, he hurdled them against the wall. I bit my knuckles until they bled. I watched him take them away that night–still wet and shivering. I didn’t ask what happened to them.

(I know what happened to them.)

And. It got worse. This time in subtle degrees that infiltrated every moment, every breath.

“This isn’t happening,” a voice whispered in my head when he took my keys away and said I could only come home when he was home.

“This isn’t happening,” a voice whispered in my head when he made a list of the people he no longer wanted me to talk to, including close friends from childhood, and a family member.

“This isn’t happening,” a voice whispered in my head when he dangled the pearl necklace my parents had given me for my 21st birthday in front of me, and said, “You bitch, if you don’t get into a good law school, I am going to break this necklace or give it to the first hot girl I see.”

He’d grab my wrist. He’d pinch my arm. He’d shove me out of the way when I’d reach for him.

And then.

“This isn’t going to happen again,” I said out loud in an empty train car, hours after he kneeled over me, the palm of his hand pressing my windpipe until the light narrowed into a single exquisite spark.

And then.

“This isn’t going to happen again,” I said as I cringed when I lifted my sore arm, my fingers still numb from what he had done to me.

And I had nothing in my purse but the leftovers of the 20 dollars he gave me that previous Monday–just like he did every Monday before I’d leave to catch my train.

“Here’s your allowance,” he’d joke.

But it wasn’t funny. Because I was so dependent on him. (We were learning about how to literalize a metaphor in a comp lit class I was taking. And I remember thinking that it was too bad I couldn’t give my professor this example.)

And while I sat in that empty train car, I remembered a Monday morning a few months before, how I’d reached for my “allowance” to buy a train ticket, and how it’d slipped from my fingers and fallen down down down through the sewer grate. I had fallen hard to my knees, and tore a nail as I tried to pry the grate loose. Because it didn’t matter to me that below flowed a river of piss and shit. All that mattered was that I had lost my $20.00 and I had to get it back.

Or else.

“This isn’t going to happen again,” I said a little louder. To myself alone.

And it didn’t happen again. Because something broke inside me then, and I only returned to that apartment with the big windows with a friend to pick up my things when I knew he was at work.

And it didn’t happen again because I finally opened my mouth and started telling people what had happened.

And it didn’t happen again because saying these words out loud made it real–and I could see with brutal clarity that it was up to me to not let it happen.

But all that time wasted. The low-grade panic, punctuated by bursts of random violence. All that time wasted being prodded along down a path by someone I trusted. All that time wasted, wasting away.

Don’t be like this.

Don’t be dependent on how others treat you. You are strong, and brave, and wonderful, and kind.

Stand up for yourself.

Fight back if you have to.

I learned all of this by living it. And I don’t want you to learn like this, because while I was lucky enough to walk away with my two legs and my body intact, we shouldn’t tempt fate.

I didn’t plan on telling you this. But I see how similar we are–I see your softness, your kindness. I see how you forgive so easily–too easily–when someone is mean to you.

It’s wonderful to be kind. It’s wonderful to be compassionate. But within reason, darling daughter. Within reason.

So, be badass. Be brave. If someone is mean to you, then good riddance. And don’t wait for them to walk away. YOU walk away.

And for the rest of your life–whether I’m around or not–it’s my job to protect you by teaching you how to protect yourself.