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13 December 2013

After You Leave & Breaking the Silence

You left. You got out of an abusive relationship. Now you want to break the silence and tell others what happened to you so that maybe your story will help someone who is suffering abuse. You have suffered in silence for so long, you don't know how you will find your voice and the words to talk about what happened to you. Joining a domestic violence support group is a good place to start. You will find others have been through similar trauma and understand what you have been through. You  may find keeping a journal or writing a blog about abuse are good ways to open up about your experiences. 

One of the most difficult things about being a survivor of domestic violence is breaking the silence. Admitting that you have been abused is both terrifying and empowering. But speaking out is only half the battle. The biggest fight will be with yourself. 

Stop expecting your abuser to admit he abused you. You may want him to admit publicly what he did to you and you will want an honest, sincere apology.  That will likely never happen. An abuser may admit what he did to you in domestic violence court. He may even plead guilty in criminal court. However, the ink will still be wet on the court papers when he starts telling anyone who will listen that you are a liar who set him up. He will claim he never laid a hand on you. He will play the victim. This will make you angry and it may break your heart. You might even feel victimized and abused all over again. This behavior is rather typical of narcissistic personalities who are also physical abusers. 

Dealing with his denials and calling you a liar after all you have been through, the humiliation, the shame, the pain and the struggle to come to terms with your experiences, will be difficult. It is unlikely he will ever admit what he did to you in front of all of his friends and supporters. You know the truth and there is a court record of his abuse. That is probably the only vindication you will ever have. It is difficult, but you have to accept he will probably never apologize for his abuse.

You must stop blaming yourself for your abuse, especially if you were in an abusive relationship for years. People who do not understand the dynamics of domestic violence and trauma bonding will ask you (usually in an accusatory tone) "If it was so bad, why didn't you leave sooner?" Don't listen to the victim blamers. Do not second guess the decisions you made while you were still in the violent relationship. Millions of people suffer in silence, just as you did. You couldn't tell anyone what was happening to you in your own home. You may have felt ashamed and embarrassed. You may have been conditioned to believe that family matters are to be kept quiet. This is all part of the problem of silence. If we don't talk about it, it doesn't exist. You did what you had to do to survive, but you got out. You are safe now. That is all that matters.

Take the time to take care of yourself. Domestic violence takes a terrible toll on your mind as well as your body. You have to allow yourself to heal. In my case, I have been free and safe for only sixteen months. I was abused for 11 years. The wounds will not heal overnight. Give yourself time to heal. Don't push yourself too hard. Don't allow anyone to tell you to "get over it." 

You will find your voice when you are ready. 


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