Domestic abuse can be difficult to talk about, and is still very much a taboo subject. But with 1 in every 4 women in England and Wales experiencing domestic abuse throughout their lifetime, you’re most certainly not alone. Here are 6 things to remember when you finally get out of an abusive relationship…
1. This does not define you or make you weak
The typical image that comes to mind when people think of a domestic abuse victim is often someone who is timid, meek and very quiet. But in reality, that’s not the case. Just because you’re confident, assertive and not afraid to say what you think in other areas of your life doesn’t mean you can’t fall victim to domestic abuse. Being a victim of abuse does not define your character – there’s so much more to you than what your abuser put you, your mind and your body through. They may have damaged your sense of self worth, but the fact you’ve come out the other side proves that you’re stronger than a thousand armies.
2. It wasn’t your fault
Control and manipulation are key factors in abusive relationships, and abusers will often make you believe that they only acted in a certain way because you made them. But there is absolutely no justification for their abuse. In reality, all you are probably guilty of is being someone who is loving, forgiving and willing to see the best in people – and these are all brilliant qualities to have.
3. Not everyone is the same
When you finally get out of an abusive relationship, you might move on and find happiness in a new relationship relatively quickly, or it might take you a long time. Either way, it’s really tough to learn to trust again, and you might even feel suspicious when a new partner is being genuinely nice to you. But it’s important to remember that just because one person treated you badly, it doesn’t mean that everyone else will. You’ve been through a really rough time, but you will find a happier one.
4. You must never feel ashamed
Feeling ashamed can be one of the toughest things to battle with, as domestic abuse is still such a taboo subject. So many women feel embarrassed about what they’ve been through, and worried that others will think they’re weak or judge them for not getting out sooner. None of these things are true. And just because you don’t think you know other women who are victims of abuse doesn’t mean they’re not right under your nose.
5. You’re not the only one
It might feel like everyone else in the world is in a perfect, happy relationship – but you need to remember how your relationship may have looked to the outside world. You never know what’s going on behind closed doors. If you feel able, try to share your story with someone that you trust. Not only will talking about it help you to start dealing with and coming to terms with your experience, but you might even help them to spot a warning sign or feel strong enough to share their own story. If you don’t feel comfortable about talking to someone you know, then you may want to use the Women’s Aid Survivor’s Forum. It’s a safe, anonymous space for women who have been affected by domestic abuse to share their experiences and offer support each other.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse then call the free National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in partnership by Women’s Aid and Refuge on 08082000247. It’s completely confidential and staffed 24 hours a day by fully trained female support workers and volunteers.
Or, take a look at the following links:
For general help and advice: www.refuge.org.uk
To find help in your area: www.womensaid.org.uk/domestic-abuse-directory
For resources on how to support a friend suffering from domestic abuse: www.1in4women.com