More than 12 million people in the U.S. are affected by domestic violence each year. While domestic violence typically happens behind closed doors, in some cases it does happen in a public space or around friends or family members, meaning that other people may witness or be aware of the abuse. When we overhear or see something that doesn’t feel right, it can be difficult to know how to react. So, here are some tips and suggestions for what you might do to intervene and interrupt that violence.
Staying in a domestic violence shelter may be part of your safety plan. If you’re in an abusive relationship and considering your options, it can be very helpful to locate the safe shelters that are near you. Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a shelter within your town or city, or you may have to travel to a nearby city. The location of your safest shelter may also depend on your situation: whether you need to stay in your community to be close to family or a support network, or if it’s safer for you to be as far away from your abusive partner as possible.
This post was written by Diane, a Hotline advocate.
A safety plan can help you stay safe while in an abusive relationship, while preparing to leave an abusive relationship, or after leaving an abusive relationship. Often, emphasis is placed on planning around physical safety, but it’s important to consider your emotional safety as well. Emotional safety can look different for different people, but ultimately it’s about developing a personalized plan that helps you feel accepting of your emotions and decisions when dealing with abuse. Below are some ideas for how to create and maintain an emotional safety plan that works for you.
Seek Out Supportive People
You deserve to feel safe while expressing yourself and your opinions, and having supportive people around you can help foster this space. A caring presence such as a trusted friend or family member can help create a calm atmosphere to think through difficult situations and allow for you to discuss potential options.
Identify and Work Towards Achievable Goals
Dealing with abusive situations can be very overwhelming and stressful, and taking one step at a time can be very helpful in overcoming larger tasks later. An achievable goal might be calling a local resource and seeing what services are available in your area, or talking to one of our advocates at The Hotline. Remember that you don’t have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with right now, but taking small steps can help options feel more possible when you are ready. Reading this page and looking for strategies to be emotionally safe is already an amazing step that you have taken!
Create a Peaceful Space for Yourself
Designating a physical place where your mind can relax and feel safe can be good option when working through difficult emotions that can arise when dealing with abuse. This can be a room in your house, a spot under your favorite tree, a comfy chair by a window or in a room with low lights. Whatever space works for you personally! Incorporating other elements such as calming music, plants, or tools to journal is an option to explore (just be sure that your abusive partner does not have access to personal journals). This is your safe space, so whatever brings you peace is a great choice.
Remind Yourself of Your Great Value
You are important and special, and recognizing and reminding yourself of this reality is so beneficial for your emotional health. It is never your fault when someone chooses to be abusive to you, and it has no reflection on the great value you have as person. You deserve to remind yourself of this! Writing messages to yourself about things you like about yourself or saying these things out loud every day can be good ways to start. Even if you don’t feel comfortable with this, just thinking “I matter and how I feel matters” is a great thing that you are doing for yourself. It is the truth, and you deserve to hear it.
Remember That You Deserve to Be Kind to Yourself
It is easy to fall into a pattern where we put extreme pressure on ourselves to make the right decisions right away. This isn’t always possible, and it’s completely okay to take whatever time you need to make whatever choices are right for you. You deserve support from other people, but you also have a right to be kind to yourself, and remember that you are going through a very difficult time. Taking time to practice self-care every day, even if it is only for a few minutes, really creates space for peace and emotional safety. It’s healthy to give yourself emotional breaks and step back from your situation sometimes. In the end, this can help you make the decisions that are best for you.
If you need to talk to someone about your situation, or if you need help creating a personal safety plan, our advocates are here for you. Call anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat online from 7am-2am Central.
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.
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.
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?
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This project was supported by Grant Number 90EV0426 from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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