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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?

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

DVAM Challenge 15: Commit to Ongoing Wellness

At The Hotline, we take the health and wellness of our callers, staff and community seriously. In the spirit of the week’s theme — committing to change — we want to encourage our readers to commit to taking care of themselves. This could mean emotionally, spiritually, physically, etc. No matter where you are in the issue of domestic violence, you deserve to be healthy and happy.

For advocates, this could mean making sure you’re in a good mind space to best help your clients. For friends and family members who are witnessing the painful abuse a loved one is experiencing, this could mean talking to someone about your feelings. For victims, this could mean talking to one of our advocates and safety planning. For a survivor, this could mean having your go-to person to call when you’re tempted to contact your abusive ex.

We recently wrote about moving on emotionally after an abusive relationship. Here are a few of the ideas we outlined for taking care of yourself emotionally.

  • Identify things that help you calm down — taking a warm bath, reading a book or taking deep breaths can help you de-stress
  • Remind yourself why you left — journaling about your abuse can help you remember the reasons that you left and can be particularly helpful if you’re having second thoughts about leaving
  • Identify a call buddy for when you’re missing your ex — talking to a friend can help you resist the urge to reach out to your ex when you’re down
  • Talk to a counselor or join a domestic abuse survivor’s therapy group
  • Talk to your family or friends — community members and neighbors can also be a good resource
  • When an anniversary, birthday, holiday, etc. is coming up, prepare yourself — try to make other plans, set a strong support group in place to help you through emotional times

Your overall wellness is important. For today’s challenge, identify one thing you can do that will improve your health and wellness this week. It doesn’t have to be a big area. It could be as simple as promising yourself a jog after work. It could be choosing to call us at The Hotline and talking with an understanding advocate. It could be spending time with a friend so that you can de-stress. Whatever it is, we challenge you to make one act for your wellness this week and see how good it feels.

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Moving On Emotionally After An Abusive Relationship

Your emotional safety is just as important as your physical safety. Dealing with the aftermath of abuse can be a very challenging experience, especially on your mind and heart. The emotional scars of domestic abuse can stay with victims long after they have left the relationship. Following these tips may help you maintain your emotional health after leaving.

  • Identify things that help you calm down — taking a warm bath, reading a book or taking deep breaths can help you de-stress
  • Remind yourself why you left — journaling about your abuse can help you remember the reasons that you left and can be particularly helpful if you’re having second thoughts about leaving
  • Identify a call buddy for when you’re missing your ex — talking to a friend can help you resist the urge to reach out to your ex when you’re down
  • Talk to a counselor or join a domestic abuse survivor’s therapy group
  • Talk to your family or friends — community members and neighbors can also be a good resource
  • When an anniversary, birthday, holiday, etc. is coming up, prepare yourself — try to make other plans, set a strong support group in place to help you through emotional times
  • Give yourself time and space — recovery is hard so go easy on yourself. Don’t put a time limit on getting past your pain. It’s ok to grieve. Even though it was an abusive relationship, it is still a loss. You are allowed to feel what you feel at your pace.
  • Be conscious of your emotional routines — maybe your partner was your go-to person when something went wrong. You’ll have to change not only your physical routines (see previous post) but also your mental routines. You will have to find new coping mechanisms. This may take time but you can do it.

Remember, advocates at The Hotline are always ready to take your call if you need help or support. 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or (206) 787-3224 (Video Phone Only for Deaf Callers)

Do you have any tips for recovering emotionally after an abusive relationship?

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Moving Forward: Advice for After You Leave

The first months after leaving an abusive relationship are extremely challenging. Victims often fear for their immediate safety and are attempting to cope with the emotional and physical trauma from their past.

Staying safe is just as important after leaving as during the relationship. The following tips are meant to help you increase your physical safety.

  • Trust your instincts — you know yourself and your situation better than anyone, do what you think is best
  • Keep your location a secret — tell only the people you trust where you are and explain how important it is that they don’t tell anyone else
  • Be aware of your surroundings — being cognizant of what’s going on is extremely important
  • Consider having your phone number be unlisted — ask the phone company to prevent blocked numbers from calling you
  • Consider renting a post office box for all mail — do not have any packages or letters delivered to your home or where you are staying
  • If possible, cancel old or shared bank accounts and credit cards — open new accounts with different banks
  • Talk to your kids — explain the situation in as much detail as you feel comfortable with, create an emergency plan with them
  • Change your routine — take different route to work, avoid your regular hang outs, change standing appointments

We will be examining other ways to take care of yourself after you leave in future posts. Please feel free to call The Hotline if you’d like to talk about your situation or to discuss other ways to stay safe. 1−800−799−SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224

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

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Book Review: Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence: A Workbook for Women

The following blog entry is written by Conrad Williams, Advocate for the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

As a Domestic Violence Advocate, I am always searching for new material to help our callers. While browsing though Barnes and Noble one Saturday, I noticed a book I had never seen before called “Healing the Trauma of Domestic Violence”, written by Edward S. Kubany, PH.D., and published by New Harbinger ($21.95). While most books focus on red flag warnings and getting out, this book focuses on staying out and moving on with your life.

This book is a very thorough manual for moving forward. Every issue is covered and broken down on a subatomic level to set up a good foundation for understanding: PTSD, Guilt, Anger, Grief and Loss (tangible/symbolic). Every chapter has some kind of exercise to gauge your current status and also your progress. Each chapter builds on the previous one in an orderly fashion like steps in a staircase.

There is so much information in the book that I fear talking about it will give away too much. I can say however that there are a couple of chapters on understanding and letting go of guilt. There are also chapters on handling current and future interactions with former partners, going back, learned powerlessness, overcoming fear, and identifying potential perpetrators.

As an advocate I’ve already recommended this book to survivors that are trying to move forward. When I mention the title to the callers who are trying to deal with moving forward, I can literally hear a sigh of relief. The title alone is a form of validation and a catalyst for taking the next step. I also recommend this book for advocates to help understand their clients and enhance their advocacy.

I also had a chance to interview the main author of the book, Edward S. Kubany, PH.D. Mr. Kubany has an extensive amount of experience working with a variety of trauma survivors: Combat Veterans, Natural Disasters, and Battered Women. His inspiration to work with battered women started with a woman that he met while teaching a class on PTSD. This particular woman worked with battered women and referred some of her clients to him.

He was approached by New Harbinger to write a book due to an article written about his form of therapy. Co Author Mari A. McCaig, MSCP is a friend and peer that has a strong background working with crime victims, and Janet R. Laconsay, MA was a Practicum Student at the time of the project.