Posts

Mental-Illness

Abuse and Mental Illness: Is There a Connection?

Mental-IllnessThis post was written by Alexander, one of our digital services advocates

A common assumption we hear at The Hotline is that abuse is caused by a partner’s mental health condition, for example: bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), narcissistic personality, borderline personality or antisocial personality. While these are serious mental health conditions, they do not cause abuse. Nothing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM 5) states that a mental illness solely causes a partner to be abusive in a relationship; however, there are a select few diagnoses that can increase the risk of abusive patterns to show up in a relationship and in other areas of life. Mental illness tends to impact all areas of a person’s life, such as work, interactions with friends, family engagement and personal relationships. In contrast, abuse primarily impacts personal relationships and typically not the other areas of life. Abusive behavior in an intimate partner relationship and mental illness are two separate entities.

Since abusive behaviors happen primarily in one’s intimate partner relationship, it’s common that an abusive partner will not show their negative or harmful behaviors with friends, coworkers or family members. An abusive partner tends to put on what can be considered a “fake mask” for the rest of the world to see. When it’s just the victim and the abusive partner together, that mask comes off and the victim sees a different side that others aren’t allowed to see. The impact of being the only person to see this behavior is often isolating for the victim, as they may think (or the abusive person may even say) that no one else will believe them, since no one else has witnessed the abusive behaviors. This also makes it easier for the abusive person to make their partner feel responsible for their abusive behavior, which reinforces the isolation.

Lundy Bancroft, author of Why Does He Do That? (2002), clarifies that an abusive partner’s “value system is unhealthy, not their psychology” (p. 38). Yes, it can appear like an abusive partner has a mental illness when they get upset and use physical or verbal abuse. If the abuse were caused by a mental illness, the partner would also yell at and/or hit their family members, friends and coworkers when upset. With domestic abuse, however, the abuser usually yells at and/or hits only their partner.

Abuse and mental illness can coincide. There are cases of individuals who have mental illness and are also abusive to their partners. There are also many individuals who have a mental illness and are healthy and supportive partners. If your partner does have a mental illness and is abusive towards you, it’s important to keep in mind that the mental illness and abusive behaviors need to be addressed separately by the abusive partner. It is the abusive partner’s responsibility to seek out support and create their own plan for managing their mental illness and be accountable for their abusive behavior. If your partner is not owning up to their actions, is not admitting to how much they’re hurting you, and is not seeking out professional help then that’s a sign that your partner isn’t willing to change. If that’s the case, then the abuse in the relationship tends to continue and escalate over time.

The following questions may help clarify whether what your partner is doing is abuse or abuse with mental illness:

  • Does my partner yell or scream at others (friends, coworkers, family members) outside of our relationship?
  • Does my partner make others check in to see where they’re at and who they’re with?
  • Does my partner hit others outside of our relationship?
  • Does my partner minimize or verbally tear down others?
  • Does my partner pressure others to do things that they aren’t okay with?
  • Does my partner make threats to others when they say something my partner doesn’t agree with?

If you answered no to most of the questions, then most likely your partner is abusive without mental illness. If you answered yes to most of the questions, then it’s possible your partner is abusive and also may be experiencing some form of mental health issue or illness. Lundy Bancroft’s book, Should I Stay or Should I Go?, has a chapter on untangling a partner’s mental health issues from abusive behaviors. Additionally, connecting with a support network, including a domestic violence advocate or counselor who specializes in domestic violence may help support you in determining your options.

Even if your partner does have a mental illness, there is NEVER an excuse for abuse. Abuse is a choice someone makes in order to maintain power and control over a partner. If a partner is abusive towards you, regardless of whether they have a mental illness or not, they have no right to treat you in that manner. You always deserve to have a healthy, loving, supportive, trusting and safe relationship 100% of the time.

If you have any questions or concerns after reading this post, please feel free to reach out to one of our advocates by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) any time or chatting online from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. CT.

minimizing-abuse

Blame Shifting and Minimizing: There’s no EXCUSE for Abuse

minimizing-abuse

Why do we make excuses? You tell a friend that you’re busy with something else because you’d rather just put your feet up and watch the game. You tell yourself that eating that pint of ice cream was fine because you went running the day before so that cancels it out.

To some extent, everyone makes excuses.

When it comes to people making justifications about their unhealthy actions, it can be difficult to see through these excuses or recognize them for what they are.

Why do we want to believe the excuses a partner makes when they’re treating us badly? Sometimes the justifications sound really good. Especially when we’re looking for something — anything — to help make sense of how the person we care for is acting toward us. It’s normal to want to rationalize what’s going on, because abuse is pretty irrational.

Abusive partners are also skilled at coercion and manipulation. They use excuses to make you feel like what’s happening is your fault.

Let’s take a look at common excuses that abusive partners use and talk about why these, like all “reasons,” aren’t justification for violent and hurtful behavior.


  • “I was drunk/I was using drugs.”

Substance abuse isn’t an excuse for abuse. There are people who drink and use drugs and don’t choose to abuse their partners. Ask yourself: how does your partner act when they’re drunk around their friends? How do they treat you when they’re sober?

A statistics teacher would tell you, “Correlation does not imply causation.” Just because two things happen together (like drinking and violence), it does not mean that one causes the other.

  • “I control you because I care about you.”

Acting jealous, controlling or possessive is not a way to show someone you care. 

  • “You got in my face/made me mad/got me wound up on purpose, and I had no other choice. I can’t control it.”

Stress and anger issues don’t cause abusive behavior. An abusive partner’s actions are always a choice that they make. Ask yourself: how does your partner react when they are angry with other people? Would they fly off the handle at their boss? Chances are probably not, because they know they can’t get away with that behavior around others.

  • I have mental health issues or a personality disorder — ex. I’m bipolar, I have PTSD.”

There are people have these mental health issues and don’t act abusive toward their partners. If an abusive partner is dealing with mental health problems, have they been diagnosed with them? Additionally, mental health issues can be managed in certain ways, like with medication.

  • “I grew up in a violent home where I experienced or witnessed abuse”

There are a lot of people who grow up in violent homes who choose not to abuse their partners. Many choose this because of how they grew up — they know how it felt to live in that situation and they want healthier relationships for their partner and their family.


Do you find yourself making these excuses for how you act toward your partner? Or, on the other hand, do any of these excuses sound similar to what you’ve heard your partner tell you when they’re treating you badly?

Being able to recognize excuses for what they are — blames, minimizations, denials — can be a step toward realizing that abuse is never the fault of the person on the receiving end. Remember: partners who are abusive always have a choice about their words and actions.

We’re here to talk: 1-800-799-SAFE(7233).

blog-posters-vandahlen

How I See DV: Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen

Today’s How I See DV perspective comes from Barbara Van Dahlen, named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Dr. Van Dahlen is the founder and president of Give an Hour. A licensed clinical psychologist who has been practicing in the Washington, D.C., area for over 20 years, she received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Maryland in 1991. We’re excited to have her share her voice during our DVAM campaign.

blog-posters-vandahlen

Please help us understand what post traumatic stress is and how it differs from post traumatic stress disorder?

When a human being is traumatized, whether it’s due to combat, physical violence, natural disaster or something else, there are certain reactions that we expect people to have. Many of those are the symptoms that are now captured in the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress.

So if I’m in a car accident, we would expect that for quite some time I might be more jumpy, hyper-vigilant when pulling out of my driveway, I might have flashbacks of what happened, I might have bad dreams, I might get depressed…  so all of these reactions are what we expect for the situation that I’m in following my accident. It only becomes a disorder if it doesn’t get resolved, if I don’t heal, if I don’t receive the support I need to address all of my understandable reactions and symptoms  associated with this trauma.

What are some misconceptions around post-traumatic stress in the military and domestic violence?

Most people assume that PTS looks the same for everyone – many think of the Rambo version of PTS. That’s not the typical reaction at all. People who have experienced trauma, whether its due to combat or another event, can experience trauma differently from other folks who may have experienced the exact same event.

You might have two people who were in the same firefight — one person might become withdrawn and depressed, the other might become very anxious, agitated. A third person in the same fight might show no indication of stress – no interference  with their functioning. People assume that PTS looks similar and in fact, the manifestation of PTS really varies. In addition it exists on a continuum. What it looks like today is not what it necessarily looked like six months ago and not what it will look like in six months.

Another misconception is that most soldiers/service members come home with PTS. That is not true either. Depending on the studies you look at — 18%, 20%, high is 35% depending on what we are assessing or measuring. Not everyone comes back with PTS.

Even if someone has PTS that doesn’t mean that they’re an ineffective partner, parent, employee, student. Many people function with the aftermath of trauma. There are some people with severe and possibly disabling PTS – but that’s not the case all of the time.

Also, domestic violence is not a symptom of PTS. That’s really important. PTS, especially when it’s very severe, might, in some people, make them more likely to be violent towards a partner if they’re already agitated and aggressive, if they’re not sleeping or if there’s substance abuse. PTS can be one unfortunate risk factor that may make violence more likely.

It depends on who the person is with PTS. We all carry around our predispositions, our tendencies, our personalities, our view of the world. And that will be compounded or affected by PTS. If someone was already a fairly controlling person, or tended to be hot-tempered but wasn’t ever violent before… if they become distressed and aggressive as a result of trauma, they may be more likely to engage in domestic violence.

Returning servicemen and women may experience PTS and exhibit violent behaviors when they didn’t before they left for duty. What do couples in this situation need to know?

PTS for both the person experiencing it and their partner can be very unnerving and scary because the person who has PTS may not know when a trigger may elicit a reaction, anxiety or aggression. So both partners need to come to understand what PTS is going to look like in themselves or their loved one. It doesn’t mean that the person cant be a good partner. It’s like being diagnosed with diabetes — if you don’t recognize what that means, if you don’t take it seriously, you can get yourself in serious trouble.

If the spouse/ partner reacts angrily to the PTS, because they’re hurt and miss the person they love and they’re angry that the person is having trouble sleeping, doesn’t seem to be the same, etc., it’s like throwing gasoline on the fire. The partner’s reaction can exacerbate a difficult and potentially volatile situation. It’s the same for the person experiencing PTS. I’ve heard soliders say that they learned to be aware of what triggered them and their  reactions. They can also learn how to be more careful with their spouses – learn to be understanding of the feeling their spouses may have that are in reaction to the PTS.  Couples can learn together – to decrease the risk of violence. But they have to work on it.

It’s important to take PTS seriously because under the wrong combination of circumstances, that can really lead to a very dangerous and very upsetting situation … especially if you add alcohol to one or both of the partners. A fight or anger that would normally dissipate with them going off to their own corners, may turn into something far more violent than it ever would have before.

And just because we can understand how/why the violence occurred, that doesn’t mean that we can – or ever should – tolerate it.

What are some behaviors that a person who experienced trauma might exhibit?

There are many ways a person might show that they are processing trauma, especially if they are a victim of domestic violence. Their self-esteem may deteriorate. You can see that both in what they say – they say negative comments about themselves, negative perceptions of themselves – and also how they take care of themselves or don’t. Their self-care will start to be affected, falter, fail. They’re not dressing the way they used to, with care. They’re not working out, they’re not eating healthy. Or maybe there’s substance abuse. So anything that is a self-care clue that somebody is suffering, we can often see those in people we care about and notice them.

We all go through ups and downs in our lives, but if you see people who don’t seem like themselves for extended periods of time, several days or weeks, it may be a reaction to trauma.

What are some myths around mental health and domestic violence?

One myth about mental health is that someone with mental illness is having mental illness makes you more likely to be violent. In fact, having a mental illness makes you more likely to be the victim of violence.

People with severe mental health issues, maybe schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are more likely to be the victim of domestic violence because they are often less able to take care of themselves, they are more vulnerable, their thinking is not always as clear.

In addition, mental health issues place a person at risk in other ways. Someone who is severely depressed may be less likely to step out of or seek help to get out of a domestic abuse situation. They may get more entrenched, and feel like “I’m worthless” because low self-esteem is part of the depression, so they see abuse as confirmation of how they feel. Or if someone has severe depression and is prone to being abusive, they might be more likely to become violent because of their mental health issue.

Those conditions — depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse — they don’t create domestic violence, or victims. They’re just risk factors on both sides .

About Our Contributor

Concerned about the mental health implications of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Dr. Van Dahlen founded Give an Hour in 2005 to enlist mental health professionals to provide free services to U.S. troops, veterans, their loved ones, and their communities. Currently, the network has nearly 7,000 providers, who have collectively given over $9.4 million worth of services. 

Dr. Van Dahlen, a featured speaker at the October 2012 TEDxMidAtlantic “Be Fearless” event, has joined numerous panels, conferences, and hearings on issues facing veterans and has participated in discussions at the Pentagon, Veterans Administration, White House, and Congress. She has become a notable expert on the psychological impact of war on troops and families and a thought leader in mobilizing civilian constituencies in support of active duty service members, veterans, and their families. Working with other nonprofit leaders, Dr. Van Dahlen developed the Community Blueprint Network, a national initiative and online tool to assist communities in more effectively and strategically supporting veterans and military families. 

Dr. Van Dahlen and Give an Hour have received numerous awards, including selection as one of the five winners of the White House’s Joining Forces Community Challenge, sponsored by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden.

can abusers change

Is Change Possible In An Abuser?

People change.

That small, two-word sentence is actually a huge, significant statement that carries a lot of weight. We grow up learning about change — the inevitability of it, the uncertainty it can bring. We change — our opinions, personalities, careers, friends and much more.

Some changes feel like they happen overnight. Others are more conscious, and they have to be, like overcoming an addiction or correcting a personality flaw that’s harmful to ourselves or others.

If you’re the one wanting a loved one to change, it can feel impossible — but we hold onto the hope that they will change, because we desperately want them to, because we remember how they were different in the past (and if they changed for the worse, can’t they change for the better?)

Can an abusive partner really change?

While people do have the capacity to change, they need to deeply want to and be committed to all aspects of change in order to begin to do so — and even then, it’s a lot easier said than done.

In discussing why abusers abuse , it’s clear that a lot of the causal factors behind these behaviors are learned attitudes and feelings of entitlement and privilege — which can be extremely difficult to truly change. Because of this, there’s a very low percentage of abusers who truly do change their ways.

One part of changing may involve an abusive partner willingly attending a certified batterer intervention program that focuses on behavior, reflection and accountability. At the Hotline we don’t recommend couples counseling, anger management, substance abuse programs or mental health treatments for abusers to learn about and deal with their abusive patterns (although oftentimes these can helpfully supplement a batterer intervention program).

How can abusers change?

According to author Lundy Bancroft, the following are some changes in your partner that could indicate they’re making progress in their recovery:

  • Admitting fully to what they have done
  • Stopping excuses and blaming
  • Making amends
  • Accepting responsibility and recognizing that abuse is a choice
  • Identifying patterns of controlling behavior they use
  • Identifying the attitudes that drive their abuse
  • Accepting that overcoming abusiveness is a decades-long processnot declaring themselves “cured”
  • Not demanding credit for improvements they’ve made
  • Not treating improvements as vouchers to be spent on occasional acts of abuse (ex. “I haven’t done anything like this in a long time, so it’s not a big deal)
  • Developing respectful, kind, supportive behaviors
  • Carrying their weight and sharing power
  • Changing how they respond to their partner’s (or former partner’s) anger and grievances
  • Changing how they act in heated conflicts
  • Accepting the consequences of their actions (including not feeling sorry for themselves about the consequences, and not blaming their partner or children for them)

Learn more about Lundy Bancroft here and check out some of his helpful books, including “Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men.”


As Bancroft notes, truly overcoming abusiveness can be an ongoing, often lifelong process.

No one deserves abuse, and it’s never too late to seek help. While we hope abusive partners will change, it’s not always realistic to expect that they can and will. Focus on changes you can control to improve your own life, because you deserved to feel loved, happy and safe.

In the words of artist Andy Warhol, “When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then… You can’t make them change if they don’t want to.”

hurtful words

50 Obstacles to Leaving: 31-40

Leaving can be one of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship, and there are countless reasons that victims are unable to leave. The question “Why don’t you just leave?” places blame on the victim and undermines the difficult, complicated nature of leaving abuse. To help address this, we’ve adapted Sarah M. Buel’s “Fifty Obstacles to Leaving, a.k.a., Why Abuse Victims Stay.”

This week we’re making our way through this list in hopes of illuminating the barriers that often prevent someone from getting out of an abusive relationship. Today we’re taking a closer look at ten more obstacles.

31. Mentally or Developmentally Challenged Victims: These victims are particularly vulnerable to the batterer’s manipulation and are likely to be dependent on the batterer for basic survival.

32. Military: If the victim or the perpetrator is in the military, an effective intervention is largely dependent on the commander’s response. Many commanders believe that it is more important to salvage the soldier’s military career than to ensure the victim’s safety.

33. No Place to Go: Victims can’t find affordable housing or there is no shelter space.

34. No Job Skills: Victims without job skills usually have no choice but to work for employers paying minimum wage, with few, if any, medical and other benefits.

35. No Knowledge of Options: Victims without knowledge of the options and resources logically assume that none exist.

36. Past Criminal Record: Victims with a past criminal record are often still on probation or parole, making them vulnerable to the batterer’s threats to comply with all of their demands or be sent back to prison.

37. Previously Abused Victims: Sometimes previously abused victims believe the batterer’s accusation, “See, this is what you drive your partners to do to you!”

38. Prior Negative Court Experiences: Victims don’t believe that they will be given the respect and safety considerations that they need in court.

39. Promises of Change: The batterer’s promises of change may be easy to believe because they sound sincere. Victims are socialized to be forgiving.

40. Religious Beliefs: Beliefs may lead victims to think they have to tolerate the abuse to show their adherence to the faith.

mental health awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental illness affects 1 in 4 or nearly 60 million Americans every year.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to discuss mental health and to work to end the shame and stigma that often comes with these illnesses.

When people think about mental illness in relation to domestic violence, it’s generally believed that individuals living with mental illnesses are the ones committing the acts of violence. However, the connection more commonly runs the other way, with large percentages of those who suffer from mental illnesses becoming, or having been, the victims of domestic violence.

Mental health issues can arise as a result of intimate partner violence. On average, more than half of women seen in mental health settings are being or have been abused by an intimate partner. Recent studies of women who experienced abuse found that up to 84% suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 77% suffered from depression, and 75% suffered from anxiety.

Domestic violence victims with mental health issues also face many barriers, such as discrimination and stigmatization by the police, the legal system, health facilities and more.

Join us in taking time this month to educate yourself about mental illness and the stigma that often accompanies it. It is our hope that changing attitudes surrounding mental illness will allow those that suffer to be able to get the help and support they deserve.

What Can You Do?

Find your local National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) affiliate and NAMI state organization here.

Pay attention to your own mental health. If you feel like you may be suffering from a mental health condition, talk to someone you know and trust. Consult your health care provider or call 1-800-622-HELP to find treatment services nearby.

Help change the stigma associated with mental illness by learning more and showing compassion for those who are struggling with mental health issues.

Look for small ways to incorporate mental health awareness into your everyday life, whether this is listening actively to someone sharing how they’re feeling with you, or avoiding terminology that diminishes mental health problems (like “crazy”).

Further Resources and Reading

“Domestic Violence and Mental Illness: ‘I Have Honestly Never Felt So Alone in My Life’” by Faridah Newman

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health

National Alliance on Mental Illness

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK(8255)

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

DVAM Challenge 3: Test Your Knowledge of Domestic Violence

How much do you know about domestic violence? Take our quiz below as your DVAM challenge #3.

DVAM challenge #3: Answer true or false to the statements below and then continue reading on to see how you did.

1. Domestic violence is not a problem in your community.

2. Couples counseling is recommended by The Hotline for abusive relationships.

3. Sometimes the victim provokes their partner into abusing them.

4. Yelling, putting down or belittling someone isn’t ever considered abuse.

5. On average, more than 3 women are murdered by their partners every day.

6. If the abuse was getting too bad, the victim would just leave.

7. The most dangerous time for a victim is often when their partner first lashes out.

8. Everyone deserves respect in a relationship.

9. If children aren’t being abused and don’t witness the abuse, they aren’t affected.

10. The cost of domestic violence is extremely high to society.

What do you think? How many are true and how many are false? Here’s the key:

1. False. Domestic violence happens in every community. Unfortunately many cases go unreported.

2. False. The Hotline does NOT recommend couple’s counseling when there is abuse in the relationship. It can be very dangerous to the partner being abused. An abuser may use what is said in therapy later against their partner. Individual counseling may be helpful but couple’s counseling is not recommended. Read more here.

3. False. Regardless of their actions, no one deserves to be physically, verbally or sexually abused.

4. False. Domestic violence is the pattern of behavior than an abuser uses to gain and maintain power and control over their partner. It can be physical, verbal or sexual.

5. True. Each year, domestic violence results in an estimated 1,200 deaths and 2 million injuries among women. Furthermore, domestic violence results in nearly 600,000 injuries among men (CDC).

6. False. Many victims love their partners despite the abuse or feel as if they have no support system or resources outside of the relationship and so they feel as if they can’t leave. Furthermore, the period immediately after leaving an abusive relationship is extremely dangerous.

7. False. Domestic violence typically worsens over time. Leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim because their abusive partner feels like they are losing power and control. The abuser may escalate the abuse in order to regain that power and control.

8. True. Absolutely no one deserves to be abused and there is no excuse for being physically, verbally or sexually violent toward a partner.

9. False. Children are extremely perceptive. Even if they don’t see the abuse happening, they feel its effects.

10. True. Each year, domestic violence costs more than $5.8 billion dollars, with $4.1 billion of that amount being spent directly on medical and mental health services (NCADV).

How did you do? Interested in learning more about domestic violence? Check out our website for more information or give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Counseling for Domestic Violence Survivors

Domestic violence is an extremely traumatizing experience and the emotional scars associated with this abuse can often outlast the physical impact.

Domestic violence survivors are at a high risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse or  stress-related mental health conditions. Survivors can have upsetting memories or flashbacks, fear or a sense of danger that they cannot overcome. They may feel numb or disconnected from the rest of the world (National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health). Learning to cope with residual emotional pain and fears is essential to healing.

Breaking the isolation of domestic violence by seeking counseling and support from friends and family can help survivors to move forward. Counseling sessions provide a safe and confidential environment for survivors to express their feelings, thoughts and fears. Counselors are nonjudgmental third-party advisors who listen and can help survivors work through the things that they are experiencing.

Speaking with a trauma specialist can help survivors to deal with their remaining anxiety and find ways to relieve that stress. These specialists can help to process traumatic memories or experiences so that it is possible to move on. They can also aid survivors in learning to regulate their strong emotions like fear and anger.

Group counseling can also be beneficial. Attending a group session can allow survivors to connect with others who have been through similar situations. Connecting with these people can reduce the feeling of isolation often created by abusers. Other survivors can also offer advice on how they got through tough situations.

Overcoming a traumatic experience can be scary. It’s important that if you do decide to seek counseling, that you find a well-trained professional or group that you are comfortable with.  Often domestic violence programs offer individual counseling to survivors in their communities.  If that’s not a possibility, ask potential counselors about their experiences and strategies for supporting victims of domestic violence.

Please note: if you are still in an abusive relationship, please keep in mind that we don’t recommend attending couple’s counseling with your abuser. Here’s why.

(Photo by Joe Houghton)

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Life After

It takes a lot of courage to share these stories. Thanks to Shana Smith for speaking about her experience in the hopes of helping others.

This is something that you just don’t hear enough about. Survivors speak and they go from their abuse to what they are currently doing, not describing enough of the true gut-wrenching feelings that you have in the days weeks or months after you leave. Life after abuse is so positive, but truth be told, sometimes you feel like it’s harder than the abuse. There are many great programs that will help you with the transition from where you have been to where you will be. The Victim Compensation Fund is a great program that will help with Mental Health Therapy, relocation and many other things, plus some cities have at least one shelter to turn to. There are many options for assistance; you just need to safely find them.

After almost 8 years since the abuse, I still deal with my after. There are still days that I apologize incessantly, cry at the drop of a hat, feel totally worthless and take the weight of the world on my shoulders. I still don’t let people see beyond the mask of total happiness — if you met me, you would never know the past that I am hiding. This is the truth about life after abuse. I married my Prince Charming at 19 after a year of dating. We were married about 15 months before he became physically abusive. I became withdrawn from my family and long-term friends out of fear they would find out. I left after 3 ½ years of marriage following a huge fight.

I had no money except for an ATM card that I was just sure he would cancel quickly, no place to go and no clothes. I left with a bag that had no makeup, hair brush or deodorant – only a toothbrush and a change of clothes. I didn’t really know anyone to call, besides I really didn’t want anyone to know. So I drove to the only hotel in town. The hotel was booked! How in the world could a Days Inn in a town of 30,000 people, mostly farm laborers, be BOOKED?! NO WAY was my thought. I begged and pleaded for a room with no luck. I couldn’t go to a shelter for fear I would lose my job if they found out, so I slept in my car that night. Ok, let’s be honest, I didn’t sleep. I waited for him to find me – and then went into work the next day and acted as if everything was normal. My husband worked 30 minutes from our house so I knew that I could, safely, go home at lunch without him there to get something for the next day. I didn’t go home the day after I left because I didn’t know if he would expect that and be there. I knew what the consequence would be for leaving.

I met someone at my gym who let me sleep on the couch until I got on my feet. For three months I hid. For three months, my abuser came to my work to ‘take care of me,’ bringing me little things like protein shakes, soup and money, all to entice me back into my old life. I was so secretive about my separation that people I worked with thought we were still happily married until after my divorce was final. Even through it all I wanted to make him happy. I wanted to make everything ok. I knew that I couldn’t go back but that didn’t mean that I wanted anything negative to happen to him or me. I just wanted to move on; I wanted a healthy life and chance to be more than just So & So’s wife – I wanted to be Shana.

Most victims would say that you become the queen of appearance. You know how to smile regardless of what just happened and act like everything is fine. The months after I left were horribly hard. I thought it would never get better. I thought I would never be able to support myself, be able to pay my own bills and be a successful adult without him. I often thought about going back because that would have been so much easier, at least in that arena I knew what to expect.

I couldn’t handle most loud noises. A slamming cupboard in the next apartment would make me jump and TV shows with violence would give me horrible nightmares (I still don’t do well with them). I was sick to my stomach constantly worried that my work or my family would find out my secret. I didn’t sleep very well; always worried that he would come to get me. There were days that I would cry – just sob – because I felt like I failed. I was getting divorced at 23 years old. I couldn’t handle the reality in my mind as a complete failure. To this day I feel like that sometimes.

Two months after I left, I finally went to our apartment to move my things into storage and on that day he tried to kill me. I remember thinking that I would die by strangulation. Thankfully, he let me go and I eventually moved to San Diego where I eventually found a job. To forget the past, I drank and had little self-worth. I did anything to try and forget the past. I thought that forgetting it was better than dealing with it. Most people seem to shy away from people after being in an abusive relationship, but I ran head first into as much attention as I could. I went to therapy and tried to talk to my friends, but no one believed that the man I was married to would do anything to hurt me. I felt so isolated and only two people stuck by me through all of this.

I moved to Orange County in 2003, and it was my big chance for a future. I got a job with a temporary agency, making barely enough money to pay my bills, but everything was MINE. The best part was that HE didn’t know where I lived. Until the day he called and begged to get back together, he had changed.

We had been apart for 18 months so I wanted to believe him. I made the mistake of allowing HIM to come down and spend a weekend to talk and see if there was anything left of the relationship and to see if he had changed. How perfect! I could be with him and have no violence and then I hadn’t really failed at marriage, right? After spending time with him, I realized he hadn’t changed. He was still the same person. I asked him to leave and he did. Over the past several years he has emailed me and contacted me on MySpace and Facebook. I’ve come to realize he will never stop trying to reach me.

After a while, I started working on myself, realizing that my unhappiness was not good for me. I deserved to be happy. What I went through with him was not a reflection of who I am or what I am worth. I started writing again and encourage others to write about their day and feelings and then reflect on what you have written.

I began to feel like my old self again. I started looking at dating again and I even stopped drinking occasionally. I didn’t feel the need to be numb any more. In 2006, I had the amazing opportunity to become a mother through adoption.  Every moment of my life became about this little girl. I knew that everything had to change but I never realized that I had pushed my past so far back in my mind. I didn’t realize how much changing my life would require me to deal with things. I have been the mother to my beautiful daughter for 3 years and 5 months. Two and a half years ago I married an amazing man, a man that would never raise his hand to me. To this day, I don’t like scarves around my neck, or really anything touching the front of my neck. I apologize for everything, my fault or not. I worry that my daughter will follow in my footsteps, just as I followed in my mother’s. I worry that no matter how many times I say I am a SURVIVOR of domestic violence that I will have nightmares for the rest of my life.

Surviving domestic violence is one day at a time. I believe that forgiveness is important in moving on but not forgetting because this made you a stronger person. You lived through something that most people couldn’t. I don’t like people to pity me or apologize for what HE did to me. I want people to see me as a strong woman, a mother and a wife – a woman that survived and is thriving. A woman with a mission to help educate others on domestic violence.

Are you supposed to be terrified to leave? YES. Are you supposed to think about him afterwards? YES. Are you supposed to be able to move on and have a happy and healthy relationship? YES. There is no one way to deal with the after trauma of domestic violence but know you can do it. There are so many people here to help, so many organizations that want you to succeed!

You can do it. Each person deals with this in their own way, none of them are any better – only different.

http://talesfromasurvivor.blogspot.com