While leaving ones abuser is by far one of the most important things they can do, it doesn’t end there. Survivors of domestic violence don’t just leave and everything is magically better. At the same time there is an amazing life after domestic violence waiting, it just takes time and work.
When I first left my abuser, I never imagined I would end up here. Helping other people, having a wonderful relationship with my family, and happily in love. Most importantly, I never imagined I would be confident and in control of my life.
It’s been four years since I left. It has been quite a journey. Even though I have come so far, sometimes I still feel broken that I am not 100% healed. I feel that people judge me for just “not getting over it”.
Here’s the thing it’s your journey and others don’t need to understand it and that’s okay. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying you should dwell on it or let yourself live as a victim. I personally don’t identify with the word victim, I choose to identify as a survivor.
After leaving the most important thing is your safety. Once you are safe, it’s time to get help. I can’t imagine getting to where I am now without the help of my family, friends, and therapist. There is ABSOLUTELY no shame in getting help.
Take back your independence! Find the things you are passionate about and do them. Do all of the things that your abuser said you couldn’t do. I had no idea who I was when I first left. My abuser had stolen my identity. Like a child, I had to learn who I was, what I enjoyed, and what I wanted.
Don’t start dating until you have put the work in on yourself, not because you are broken but because you deserve better. How can you expect someone to love you the way you deserve until you love yourself?
Dating will be difficult for many reasons, especially when you first begin dating. My first boyfriend I had after leaving my abuser made me feel guilt, shame, and embarrassment. When I told him about my abusive relationship, his response was “Well, why didn’t you leave” I immediately shut down. He inferred that it was my fault for staying. He then said “Ugh, not again. I already went through this with my last girlfriend”. After that, I could never talk to him about what I was going through.
It will not be easy to find someone out there who is understanding and supportive. DO NOT settle for someone who isn’t fully supportive. My boyfriend now is beyond supportive. He has never made me feel badly about my situation. In fact, he goes out of his way to make sure I am okay. We went to see a movie and there was a scene where a man was beating a woman, he leaned over and asked if I was okay and if I wanted to leave. In that moment I fell in love with him all over again.
As strong as I am now, I still have scars. I still have to go to therapy for my PTSD. I am not ashamed of that though, I am grateful. Grateful for those who have supported and loved me while I have been on this journey. I am so grateful that I found an amazing man who is patient with my healing.
Be patient with yourself. You will not trust easily. There are times where I still find myself doubting peoples actions and intentions, because life before was a constant game of chess. It takes time, work, and patience to begin to trust again.
Life after domestic violence is amazing. You know that you are strong and can overcome anything that comes your way. I am a completely different person now. The person that I am now is so much better than I was before. There is a wonderful life out there just waiting for you. You just need to realize why you are capable of and that you deserve the world.