Ways You Change After Getting Out Of An Abusive Relationship

One in three women experience some form of violence at the hands of an intimate partner, according to research by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Women between 18 and 24 are most commonly the age bracket who experience violence at the hands of their partner and 15 percent of all violent crimes is an intimate partner violence crime. The numbers are terrifying to say the least.

Whether it be physical abuse, emotional abuse, or mental abuse, all abuse leaves wounds and a lasting impact. And while it may be easy for people on the outside to say you should just leave the relationship, it’s more complicated than that. Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship and has escaped knows that, as with many things in life, leaving is easier said than done. And if children are involved, it’s even more difficult. However, for those who have been able to leave their abusive relationship, then comes the aftermath of trying to get their life in order again.

“Getting the strength to get out of an abusive relationship can feel as though you just moved a mountain off you,” Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, psychotherapist and author of Smart Relationships: How Successful Women Can Find True Love, tells Bustle. “You probably feel relieved — but you also might feel sad at the loss, and a bit frightened of trusting your love judgment again.”

Here’s how you change after you get out of an abusive relationship, according to experts.

1. You Might Become Overly Cautious

If you’ve been abused, your trust may go out the window. When that happens, it’s hard to accept that anyone, even if their intentions are genuine and legit, is not going to hurt you in some way. In effect, you build a wall around you and proceed with extreme hesitation.

“People become cautious, sometimes overly so,” relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love, Chris Armstrong, tells Bustle. “This is very difficult to speak to since abuse is a serious thing and using ‘overly’ can sound both judgmental and insensitive. This said, while caution is important people often become cautious around everyone before eventually settling into institutional distrust.”

2. You Might Put Dating On Hold For Awhile

“You might avoid dating out of fear of repeating the same relationship pattern,” says Dr. Wish.

If you can’t trust anyone and you’re the victim of intimate partner abuse, then of course dating again is going to be extremely hard. And there’s no set time as to when it will stop being hard, so it’s a wait-and-see situation before you’re able to trust and date again.

3. You Become More Empathetic

When you’ve experienced such trauma, it’s only normal and human, to relate to those who are either currently experiencing similar abuse or have experienced such abuse in the past.

“Once people have been abused, they become very aware of — and compassionate to — other people inflight,” explains Armstrong. “News articles, co-worker stories, or even neighborhood rumors about bullying, rape, and other issues will trigger anger, sadness and, above all, empathy.”

4. You’re Easily Triggered

Not only are you triggered into feeling a whole slew of emotions, especially empathy, but it also doesn’t take much to trigger you — and it can also happen out of nowhere. A person who might resemble your abuser can walk past you on the street and suddenly your memories take you back to that abusive situation.

“[People] are triggered by memories of what happened and associations with anyone that shares a descriptor (gender, for instance) of the person who abused them,” says Armstrong.

5. You May Try To Overcompensate

Although you should never blame yourself for the abuse you’ve endured because it wasn’t you fault, some people, in a reaction to the actions that were done to them, might become hardened as a response. When that happens, it’s the other people around you who suffer.

“You also might over-correct your submissiveness and tolerance of abuse by becoming controlling, demanding, critical, and ‘no-nonsense’ in your next relationships,” says Dr. Wish.

6. You Might Become Self-Exploratory

Although there are no answers, other than the fact that it was your partner who was wrong and in need of psychological help, you might spend a lot of time looking inward, trying to decipher how things got to the point that they got to in your relationship.

“People become self-exploratory,” says Armstrong. “They want to know what happened. They want to know why it happened. They want to know what, if any role, they had in the abuse. Or, they want to understand how they could ‘let it happen’. Of course, abuse is never the responsibility of the abused, but that does not stop the introspection and self-reflection.”

7. You Might Feel Extra In Control

As Dr. Wish mentioned, getting out of an abusive relationship can feel like you “moved a mountain off you.” With this freedom can some a sense of relief, as though you’re in charge of your life again. “You feel emotionally stronger, and able to recognize abusive behavior,” says Dr. Wish. “You might even get emotionally brave enough to seek therapy so you can understand yourself better before risking love again.”

While it’s nice to think that once you’ve escaped an abusive relationship, you’ll never go back to that person or end up in an abusive relationship again, that’s not always the case. “We all would like to think that we’ve ‘learned our lesson’ about getting into unhealthy relationship patterns,” says Dr. Wish, “But sometimes we don’t recognize right away the similarities or the more hidden signs of disrespect in a new partner such as sarcasm, criticism, refusing to talk about issues, or the slow changes from being caring to being controlling.”

So although you may come out of an abusive relationship changed, it’s extremely important to seek therapy or support from loved ones so you work through your trauma and, ideally, never find yourself in such a situation again.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and needs help, you can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline.




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Temporary Paralysis Is Common in Rape Victims

We didn’t need proof, but it’s here.

There’s a notion in society that sexual assault victims should “fight back” against an attacker. In fact, some states even had laws stipulating that if a victim did not fight back, what happened was not rape. But sexual assault survivors will tell youthere are many reasons they may not have fought back against an attacker, whether it was because of threats, fear, or that they physically could not. Studies have previously shown that some sexual assault victims experience paralysis during their attack, making them incapable of fighting back. Now, new research makes clear that paralysis during sexual assault is common, and it’s real.

New research published in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica shows tonic immobility — a state of involuntary but temporary paralysis — is a “common reaction” for sexual assault victims. The research also points out that people who experience tonic immobility during an assault are likely to experience PTSD and severe depression in the aftermath.

Of 298 women who visited the Emergency Clinic for Rape Victims in Stockholm within one month after being sexually assaulted, researchers found that 70% of them experienced significant tonic immobility and 48% experienced extreme tonic immobility during the assault. While studies have previously found that this kind of temporary paralysis happens in sexual assault victims, this study is significant because of its large sample size and because it surveyed victims soon after their assaults, reducing the chance of the victims remembering inaccurately, Scientific American reported.

It’s also significant because it challenged the idea of what a “good” rape victim does. In a 2014 essay for BuzzFeed News, Maya Inamura detailed what society considers the “perfect” victim of sexual assault.

“A good victim is one who did nothing to ‘ask for it.’ A good victim does not know her assailant, is not around him willingly, isn’t sexually active, isn’t dressed provocatively, and isn’t under the influence of drugs or alcohol. She makes it clear that the assault is not consensual, immediately reports it to the authorities, and cooperates with the investigation,” Maya writes. “No one can find fault with a good victim, because the good victim did everything in her power, and more, to prevent the assault from happening. The fault, therefore, can only lie with the assailant.”

But Maya writes that she was a “bad” victim. She froze during her assault, her memory became hazy, lending doubt to her story. Maya goes on to say that “no one will ever be considered a good victim in our society, because there’s always something one can find for which to fault the victim,” and that’s exactly the point. There is no such thing as a “good” rape victim because everyone experiences sexual assault differently. Even the study’s authors point out that “resisting is generally thought to be the ‘normal’ reaction to sexual assault” and then go on to debunk that there is any normal reaction by showing how common, and involuntary, immobility during sexual assault is.

By implying that rape victims did something wrong by being physically incapable of fighting back, University of Sydney psychiatrist Kasia Kozlowska told Scientific American, we’re actually doing more harm to survivors.

“These courts are actually causing psychological harm to the women and failing to recognize the body’s innate response to serious attack,” Kozlowska said.




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The Second-Hand Trauma That Comes With Working With Sexual Assault Survivors

The first time I answered a hotline call for a rape crisis center, I didn’t know what to expect, other than tears. When it was over, the call lingered with me. The survivor’s voice, what they had experienced, how I responded. All of it haunted me for hours. And then it was time to answer another call.

For the last year I’ve been volunteering at a rape crisis center, taking shifts answering the center’s hotline and accompanying survivors to the hospital. I first became interested in sexual violence prevention in high school. The more I read the news and books like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, the more I knew this was the work I need to be doing. So having conversations about current events related to assault isn’t unusual for me. But as people began to learn about my work, I found myself talking about sexual violence in my free time. And whereas I used to discuss cases going on in the national media, my conversations began to shift to people telling me about their own experiences of assault.

People began consulting me off the clock. At one point, out of the blue, a woman I had gone to school with even told me about her assault and an abusive relationship she had been in. I’ve been trained to help people in this situation, but I wasn’t prepared to use my training in that moment. I found myself saying a generic “I’m sorry that happened to you” and trying to get out that conversation as quickly as possible.

Advocates do whatever we can to make survivors safe and comfortable. We get so wrapped up in a case or a phone call that, afterward, we carry it with us. The so-called second-hand trauma can sometimes linger for days or weeks, and it can be hard to separate that from our own realities.

Many advocates are also survivors, so we’re dealing with the trauma from our experiences while also taking on other people’s trauma. Carly Mee was was assaulted during her first week of college, and is now a staff attorney at SurvJustice. She says it’s inspiring people want to share their stories with her, but it can become overwhelming to be inundated with traumatic story after story that hit “particularly close to home.”

Which isn’t to say that the struggles of advocates and survivors are the same. What this does mean, though, is that we practice the most extreme type of emotional labor. Expecting advocates to perform this emotional labor at any moment will lead to one thing: burnout. So, when we’re off the clock, we need that time to unpack what we’ve experienced in our work and do whatever we can to heal.

Sexual assault can sometimes become the dominating thing people discuss with you or identify you with when you work in sexual assault advocacy, says Jessica Davidson, who works at End Rape on Campus..

“Many advocates can experience frustration when there is something in the news,” such as the recent Bill Cosby trial or the allegations against President Trump during the election. “It dominates our day at work and then people want to talk to us about it in our personal lives,” she says, “which is exhausting.”

“I just get tired of talking about it,” says Jessica Luther, a freelance journalist and author of Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape. She’s found herself more hesitant to talk about sexual assault than she used to be. “At the same time, I feel an obligation to have those conversations with people, in part because they seek me out knowing they can have a certain kind of conversation with me.”

To protect herself from this, Mee says it’s important to set boundaries in her personal life. So if family or friends try to talk to her about sexual violence, she finds herself telling them that it’s important for her to take a break from thinking about it since she’s working in it all day.

Mee says working at SurvJustice helps her define boundaries while still helping survivors. “We aren’t turning people away, but we’re dealing with this at certain times,” she says.

“Nobody should have to think about this issue all the time. It is exhausting, it can lead to burnout, it can harm mental health,” Davidson says. “Giving advocates space in their personal lives to be people outside of an issue is very important, not only for their personal well-being but also for their professional longevity.”

Luther says she it’s important to enforce boundaries in her life and take breaks when she needs to. She tries not to work at night or on the weekends, and gives herself space when she works on something particularly disturbing.

Part of this means giving herself permission to cry, she says. It’s important to let herself feel whatever she feels when looking over a case, cry about it, and then give herself space from it, she says. Sometimes that space means binge watching TV while folding laundry, other times it’s or taking her dog for a walk.

One way the team at End Rape on Campus helps people deal with being inundated with these stories all day is to provide content warnings if emails about a graphic case or news story are circulating in the office. It basically says, “Read this when you’re ready,” Davidson says.

“We have a tendency to view survivor advocates as superheroes with steel spines, and while that is true and it takes immense bravery, that does not mean that they are undeserving of self-care,” Davidson says. “In fact, they need it more so to continue to be effective and continue to make change.”

Source: http://splinternews.com/the-second-hand-trauma-that-comes-with-being-a-sexual-a-1796844359
Author – Kristen Barton 

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Running for Her Life

One survivor tells how running helped her heal after almost losing her life to domestic violence

  • May 03, 2017
  • By domesticshelters.org
Running for Her Life

Liane Daniels took up running in high school, but life got in the way after graduation. She hung up her running shoes for a while and became busy with her career. She got married and they had a daughter. Then, her husband died suddenly.

“It was a wake-up call,” says Daniels, who began to think about her own mortality. And at 31, she laced up her sneakers and once again hit the pavement. It brought her joy. She felt healthy, she told Women’s Running magazine last July. Daniels, who had contracted German measles at the age of 2, which led to the loss of her hearing, says running was also the one thing that helped her feel like everyone else.

She remarried several years later and soon came to learn her new husband was abusive as well as an alcoholic. She turned to running as her temporary escape on the weekends, competing in half-marathons and 5Ks every chance she could. But the abuse from her husband continued for 16 years.

“He mostly criticized me and made me feel stupid. He pushed me into walls and onto the floor, and restrained me when I tried to leave,” says Daniels. In 2012, he strangled her. He spent five days in jail followed by a year’s probation. He also went to a batterer’s intervention class.

“During that time, he stopped drinking and was wonderful,” says Daniels. She made a fateful decision: “I went back to him.” Within a year, he was drinking again and his abuse started back up. Without the financial means to leave him, Daniels was trapped.

Refusing to Be Stopped

One night in November of 2015, Daniels’ husband came home drunk and ready to argue. Because of her hearing impairment, she couldn’t understand what he was saying. It enraged him. Daniels tried to leave—that’s when her husband pulled out a gun and shot her through the chest.

“I think it was just pure adrenalin and the will to live that made me get out of the house. I honestly thought he would shoot me in the back as I was trying to get the door open,” she says. Amazingly, Daniels managed to run next door to her neighbor’s house for help.

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“I managed to bang on the door and tell my neighbor, who was a police officer, that my husband shot me. Then I collapsed.” For reasons unknown, her husband walked across the street and shot into the home of a different neighbor, perhaps suspecting Daniels was there. The bullet didn’t hit anyone, but there was a 1-year-old and a 6-year-old inside. Police arrested him on the scene.

Daniels spent two weeks in the hospital recovering from a collapsed lung, broken ribs, a broken sternum and a lacerated lung. Her husband went to jail and is still awaiting trial.

“After I got back home, something inside of me said, ‘This is not going to stop me,’” says Daniels. She credits herself as being very strong willed, and was determined she would run again. She began by walking a little each day.

“It took me a month to be able to walk a mile.”

From there, she began to walk two miles. Her determination never wavered.

“I ran the Jackson Marine Half Marathon in October 2016,” says Daniels, who turns 59 this June. “It was my recovery race.” This year, she’ll participate in the GATE River Run in March, the largest 15K race in the U.S.

Daniels says she still has chronic pain from her injuries, as well as bullet fragments in her chest. “But it won’t stop me from running.”

Running Activates Feel-Good Chemicals

You’ve probably heard of the “runner’s high” that can accompany a strenuous jog. It’s describing the release of endorphins and dopamine, the feel-good brain chemicals that have been shown to help with depression and pain relief. A study from Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found just a single go at exercise, say a 30-minute walk, can help elevate the mood of those suffering from a major depressive disorder.

This natural boost is just one reason exercise, including running, can help with people undergoing or recovering from trauma. But running’s health benefits exceed beyond mental state — Runners World reports that the sport can also reduce your risk of certain cancers, help ward off age-related mental decline and may add as many as five years to your life.

Ready to Lace Up Your Sneakers?

The Angel Run is a 5K run/walk on July 22 that you can participate in in person, in Colorado Springs, Colo., or virtually, anywhere in the world. Hosted by Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, the nonprofit hopes to raise money during July to support their Angel Scholarship Fund, Angel Retreat and prevention efforts to end domestic violence.

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Tips for Safely Reaching Out for Support

Being in a relationship should not mean you lose your right to privacy or your right to talk to whomever you like. But in an abusive relationship, an abusive person may isolate their partner from sources of support. This is often done by checking their partner’s call log and text history or denying their partner the right to a phone.

Reaching out for support when you’re in an abusive relationship is scary, especially if there are barriers to having a safe phone. If you are having trouble finding a safe way to communicate with others for support, below are some options to consider:

  • Semi-Safe Phone: If you do have a phone that you use but you are concerned your partner sees your messages or call history, you could selectively delete texts and phone calls. Also, you could clear your search history on a smartphone so your abusive partner cannot see what websites you have visited. Additionally, if you have a family member or friend you trust, you can work out a plan with them where you decide on a code word that you’ll text them when you need help. When that person receives that message containing the code word, they’ll know to take some agreed upon action to help you, like calling the police or picking you up at a certain location.
  • Trusted Loved One or Neighbor: If you do not have access to a safe phone, there may be someone you trust who will let you use their phone to safely call for support.
  • Phone Not Connected to Service Provider: Sometimes an abusive partner will cut off their partner’s cell service. Even if the phone doesn’t have service to make general calls, it will call 911. Keeping it charged and near you will give you a way to call 911 in an emergency. If you have a smartphone, you may also be able to use the internet on the phone by connecting to wifi. If your home doesn’t have wifi, going to your local library, community center or coffee shop could be a way for you to reach out for support online.
  • Internet: There are services such as Google Voice (only available in the U.S.) or Skype that allow you to call someone via the internet. Keep in mind that Google Voice doesn’t work for all 1-800 numbers, but Skype is able to connect with most of them. Facebook also allows you to call other users you are friends with using wifi.
  • Secret Phone: If it is safe for you to do so, consider getting a phone your abusive partner doesn’t know about. You could keep it at work, with a trusted friend or family member, or in another safe place your partner won’t have access to. There are affordable pay-as-you-go phones which you could purchase and add minutes to when you need them. Another option is Verizon Hopeline, which provides free, refurbished cell phones to survivors through local domestic abuse centers. Safelink is also an option for low-income individuals to receive free phones and minutes.
  • Community Phones: Local community centers and libraries may have pay phones or public phones you can use. If you live in an apartment complex with a business center, it may offer you a safe way to reach out. Online searches can help you locate pay phones in your area as well.


This post was written by Lauren C.


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