Victims and Survivors Talk About Money: Financial Education Against Domestic Violence

talk about money

Rebuilding financial security and confidence after domestic abuse can be extremely challenging. More and more online and nationwide in-person programs have started teaching survivors the financial skills necessary to recover from abuse. However, as the adage goes, knowledge is power! Let’s talk about money and begin your financial education journey today.  

What does financial abuse look like?

Financial abuse is a red flag that can escalate to other types of violence, such as physical abuse, between partners.

The abuser will attempt to and perhaps succeed in controlling and/or stealing their partner’s finances and information. They can also stalk them at their workplace or prevent them from having a job. Victims of domestic violence can be particularly vulnerable after leaving their abuser. Escaping is a financial burden in and of itself; it may mean single parenthood or difficulties finding a stable home and job. Victims may lack the financial knowledge to (re)gain control over their economic situation.

According to Judy Postmus, director of the Center on Violence Against Women and Children at Rutgers University’s School of Social Work, when explaining why it can be challenging to leave abusers, survivors complain about their lack of access to financial resources and knowledge of money management. Undoubtedly, survivors of domestic violence have unique financial needs. For example, they may require information on how to separate joint accounts, improve credit scores that their abuser damaged, budget as a single parent, and draft financial safety plans.

Financial empowerment refers to, among other aspects, employment, budgeting, housing, debt, and assets, but here, when talking about financial empowerment, we’ll focus on three things – knowledge, personal savings, and separate credit – as well as how victims and survivors can use these to their benefit.

Talk About Money Knowledge

The first step for both victims trying to escape their abuser and survivors of domestic violence is to build strong financial and money management knowledge and confidence. Knowledge is power! Fortunately, there is a growing list of financial literacy resources available online tailored to victims and survivors. Here are some you may find helpful:

The next steps include listing out all your IDs, debit and credit cards, birth certificates, personal accounts, assets, and debts, which may require a lot of research and digging if your abuser has hidden these documents and information from you. Make a note of what financial resources and documentation you have and don’t have. Ask yourself: Is the abuser keeping the documents and financial resources you’re lacking? Is there a way you can get them back, cancelled, or re-issued? If you’ve never held these documents and financial instruments, what’s stopping your access? Is this something you can get around or get help with?

Keeping Your Personal Info Safe

Remember to keep all your IDs and your Social Security number, and any other personal information safe. Avoid sharing any personal details and passwords with others unless required. It may be a good idea not to store passwords on your computer or phone. These steps will ensure your identity is protected and that the abuser cannot steal it.

As a safeguard, be wary of any requests for your personal information and passwords over text or e-mail, especially soon after you leave your abuser, even if they appear to be coming from your bank or any legal authorities.

Separate Savings

If possible, always keep some savings under your name, perhaps by regularly putting some of your paychecks into a separate account or under a close friend’s name and address, to keep it hidden from your abuser. Victims leaving an abusive relationship should try to take at least half of the money from all the accounts they own jointly with their abuser. Keep in mind that abusers may attempt to drain jointly owned accounts after their victims leave.

Check out Domesticshelters.org, an online searchable database of domestic violence shelters around the country, which can assist with housing after abuse.

Separate Credit

If possible, have your credit card and (bank) accounts to ensure you can build a credit history in your name and that you are not left with a bad credit score or unmanageable amounts of debt after escaping your abuser.

Final Thoughts

Rebuilding financial security and confidence after domestic abuse can be extremely draining and challenging. Financial concerns can also keep victims in abusive relationships and postpone their escape. More and more online and nationwide in-person resources and programs have started teaching survivors the financial skills necessary to recover from abuse, however. There is a lot of power and hope in knowledge. Click on some of the links referenced here to further or begin your financial education journey and reap the benefits.  

Investing in Yourself After Leaving an Abusive Relationship

investing in yourself

After leaving a violent or abusive relationship, focusing on yourself can be a hard adjustment. You’ve spent so much of your time and energy focused on your partner’s mood, and letting that go to take care of yourself can be a bit of an internal battle. Deciding to leave the situation is the first step in making things right with yourself and for yourself. Now begins your new journey of self-discovery and healing. A good place to start is by learning the ways you can invest in yourself after leaving the abuse behind physically. 

Begin Working Through Your Emotions

Physically leaving behind an abusive relationship is liberating. The emotional aspect, however, can be a little more difficult to leave in your past. This is a time that it is imperative to focus on you

One of the harder things to work through is feeling at fault, even partially, for the way you were treated in your relationship. It is important for you to remember that no one deserves or asks to be abused. To move forward, you need to re-learn to love yourself before you can progress further in life. 

Investing in yourself starts with knowing your emotions, who you are as an individual, and what you deserve in life. Abuse is a lot to cope with, however, it can be done and you can begin to feel like yourself again.

Reconnect with People

Being in an abusive relationship can be isolating. Whether your partner is responsible for those you were once close to alienating you, or you felt ashamed by the way you were treated, it can be hard to face people after experiencing abuse.

However, connecting is a major step toward becoming and investing in yourself again. If there are people who were in your life before or during your abusive relationship that you miss, don’t be afraid to reconnect with them. It’s important to be honest about why the connection broke in the first place, but people who truly care about you will always be there and understand in the end. 

It’s also important for you to make new good friends after an abusive relationship. These people won’t know your past unless and until you feel comfortable telling them about it. They are people you can truly be yourself around without feeling analyzed and can help you work toward reclaiming your identity.

Look Toward Coping Mechanisms

A great way to reinvent yourself is by taking up new hobbies. Thankfully, many hobbies also double as coping mechanisms for dealing with the trauma inflicted upon you during the relationship you left. 

Look for hobbies and coping mechanisms that allow for some form of self-expression. Many people find healing through art or even writing about their experience and hopes for the future. Working in this way can lead you to discover a hidden talent, get your feelings out in a creative way, and can even develop into a new passion. 

Remember to be doing this for you though. This has to be something that you enjoy and find value in, otherwise, it will end up being something you resent and will no longer be helpful to your progress.

Become Financially Independent

When you think about investing in yourself, finances are likely one of the first things that come to mind. After leaving an abusive relationship, it is extremely important for you to establish yourself financially. This is especially true if part of your abuse included being financially restrained or reliant on your abuser. 

Financial independence begins with developing a plan to help you navigate your personal finances after leaving. Once you have a plan in place, you can begin to execute it and work toward living life on your own terms.

If you require some financial education because you’re not accustomed to managing the funds, ask your bank for an appointment to help walk you through the basics or seek advice from a registered shelter or organization with education programs for survivors. 

Restart Your Career With Fresh Eyes

To help you invest in yourself, you need to rediscover your passions and career. It is common for abuse survivors to be lower in confidence and feelings of self-worth. However, those feelings are often not a true indicator of your potential. 

If you already have a career that you love, use it as an outlet to work through the changes happening in your life. Your career can be your constant in the midst of everything else changing, which is something that you can hold onto and be grateful for as you begin to invest in yourself and change as a person for the better. 

Sometimes being in an abusive relationship can cause your career to take a backseat. Use this as a time to invest in yourself by working on your professional development and making sure that your career is working for you. If it isn’t, there’s no time like the present to explore your options and find something that you’re passionate about.

Make Your Own Home

Now that you’re independent, it’s time for you to make your own space and claim it as yours. The best way to do this is by creating your own home that you can feel comfortable and safe in. 

If you are ready and in a good enough place financially, then it’s time to discover your options. For example, you may have racked up some credit card debt in the process of reclaiming your life or you might be working on building up your credit score, but that doesn’t mean you can’t own your own home. Should either of those describe your situation, then researching a FHA loan would be a good option for you to consider. 

Having a place to retreat to and independently make your own space is a liberating feeling. It is also something that can make you feel like you’ve truly overcome the abuse you once faced. Reclaiming a home for yourself is perhaps the best investment you can make both emotionally and financially.

Although focusing on yourself can be a tough adjustment after leaving an abusive relationship, it is a necessary step. By investing in yourself, you are telling yourself that things will get better, and you are taking the steps to create that reality. There will undoubtedly be hard times, however, by creating that base investment, you’re setting yourself up to be able to overcome anything else that comes your way.

Post Traumatic Growth: Thriving and Finding Meaning After Trauma

post traumatic growth

We have all heard the phrase,  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” 

As survivors of domestic violence, this saying can be hard to grasp. It can leave you wounded, with both visible and invisible scars. It can sometimes be hard to imagine you will ever recover from the trauma you faced, let alone come back stronger. 

However, as much as it doesn’t feel like growth is occurring, data states otherwise. Studies show that about 71% of interpersonal violence survivors experience some type of Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) [1]. Thousands of survivors have learned not just to survive but to thrive. They have used the pain inflicted by their trauma as an avenue to find new meaning in their life. 

From Trauma to Opportunity

In short, PTG is a positive transformation that occurs in the life of many survivors of intense trauma. 

People who experience PTG do not merely bypass the negative consequences of trauma. Instead, the emotional battle is what challenges survivors to reevaluate their perception of life. This new perception works as a catalyst for positive growth [1]

In other words, the aftermath of trauma can change your mindset (in a good way). It can alter the lens through which you view the world. It is like a photographer who adjusts their lens and angle to see the most powerful possible shot. People experiencing PTG choose to react to their trauma in a way that allows them to see the best in their situation. 

According to the Post Traumatic Growth Inventory, people typically experience PTG in one or more of the following ways. 

  • A new, enhanced appreciation for life.
  • Improved social relationships and an increase in positive emotions derived from the relationships.
  • An openness to new possibilities/opportunities in life.
  • An increase in mental resilience and personal strength.
  • Spiritual connection.

The Journey of Post Traumatic Growth

There is no timeline for coping, healing, or growth. Every survivor’s experience is different, and that’s okay. PTG usually occurs naturally, and unfortunately, not everyone experiences it. 

However, there are five evidence-based ways to help facilitate growth:

Education

Growth after trauma requires some serious self-reflection. You may not be the same person you were before the trauma, and you have to face the reality of determining your new identity. Also, many of your perceptions about life have likely changed. 

The first thing to facilitate growth is to acknowledge these changes and understand that your situation will require you to view your circumstances in a new, positive way. You need to try to change your mindset while at the same time, allow compassion for yourself and your trauma. 

Disclosure

Talking about trauma can feel like a release. It can also help you make sense and find meaning in the trauma. There are many different ways you can talk through and process your trauma. You can try counseling, venting with family/friends, joining a support group, sharing your story on a blog/domestic abuse network, or starting a journal. You could even record yourself or talk to yourself in an empty room.

Service

Helping others has profound benefits for your mental health and healing. To add, it can give you a sense of self-worth, accomplishment, and gratitude. It can also aid in finding meaning in your trauma. 

Consider doing service directly with causes associated with the trauma you went through—such as being a domestic violence advocate or starting a blog about your grief and growth.

Emotional Regulation

Regulating the intense emotions you feel after a traumatic event can be difficult; but, trying to experience PTG when surrounded by negative emotions is impossible. You should refrain from dwelling on your negative emotions– try your best to frame things positively. Instead of focusing on your situation’s negatives, consider what you have gained through your experience– perspective, a fresh start, an opportunity to learn and grow.

Another practice that can assist with emotional regulation is breathing, mediation, and acknowledging/observing emotions while you are experiencing them. 

Narrative Development

You are solely in charge of deciding what your story will be and what your trauma means. It is an individual choice to focus on the negatives and talk about everything you lost from the abuse or grief. You can also acknowledge those losses while choosing to focus on the positive things you learned from the trauma and the growth you experienced. 

Lessons from a Broken Cup

@9231458 via Twenty20

The Japanese have a tradition called kintsugi, which means “golden repair.” It is the ancient art of putting broken pottery dishes back together using gold [4] causing the pottery to be more beautiful and worthy than before it suffered the break. 

Likewise, you can use the trauma you endured as a way to recreate yourself in a beautiful, strong way. You can experience post-traumatic growth.

Viewing the World Through a New Lens

“Thoughts could leave deeper scars than almost anything else.” 

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix

It’s essential to recognize that you are not defined or controlled by your traumas. 

Unfortunately, no one can take away the trauma or pain you endured, but you can choose how to react to what the world has handed you. It is up to you to change your mindset and decide to frame your life experiences positively. 

Remember, broken things can transform into something even more beautiful. And you–survivors and angel families— can thrive after trauma. 


A Note From The Author:

Let this serve as an inspiration. None of this is to say that the abuse you experienced or the loved one you lost to an abusive relationship ended up being a blessing in disguise. Anyone who experiences post-traumatic growth realizes the cost. Most likely, most would happily give up all the growth if they could change the truth of their trauma. 

Not everyone experiences growth after trauma, and that’s okay. It does not mean you are not a survivor, and it does not mean you will not thrive.

The growth you experience does not make your suffering any less valid.

References

  1. Elderton, A., Berry, A., & Chan, C. (2017). A Systematic Review of Posttraumatic Growth in Survivors of Interpersonal Violence in Adulthood. Trauma, Violence & Abuse, 18(2), 223-236. doi:10.2307/26638176
  2. Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (1996). The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of traumatic stress, 9(3), 455–471. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02103658
  3. Tedeschi, R. G. (2020). Growth after trauma. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2020/07/growth-after-trauma#:~:text=Although%20posttraumatic%20growth%20often%20happens,%2C%20narrative%20development%2C%20and%20service.
  4. Mantovani, A. (2019). Kintsugi and the art of repair: life is what makes us. Medium. https://medium.com/@andreamantovani/kintsugi-and-the-art-of-repair-life-is-what-makes-us-b4af13a39921
  5. Rowling, J. K. (2014). Harry Potter and the order of the phoenix. Bloomsbury Childrens Books.

Re-Learning to Love Yourself After Abuse

re-learning to love yourself

How do you find your way back to yourself when another person has stripped you of your confidence, made you question your intuition, and jaded your sense of “good” in the world? How do you re-learn to love yourself when there is a haunting voice that says you are unworthy of love?

You were made to believe you are crazy. You were taught to put their needs before yours. You learned to keep the peace at any cost.  And that cost was usually your own well-being.

Domestic violence isn’t merely bruises and broken bones. It isn’t only fabricated stories created to ease the humiliation of being in a relationship we never thought we’d find ourselves in. Often the web of violence is interwoven in the psyche of the victim. It is methodically and relentlessly chipping away at the very structures that each of us relies on to maintain a sense of identity. Intimate partner abuse is a tricky beast, wrought with nasty side effects that can linger for a lifetime.

So, how does one find safety, love, and trust again after abuse?

Journey to Self- Love

The answer is found in the journey back to Self. The journey applies to those of you who once knew who you were and fell prey to the dark side of human control. It applies to those of you who have never felt a strong connection with yourself. After living in a mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically violent environment with an abuser, the path to internal peace will include the same stepping stones. 

These healing stones are not always linear, meaning there is no order or even progression. Each stone will come along differently for each of us, and they will continually invite us to heal more deeply, understand ourselves more fully, and reconcile all the missing pieces of our souls over time. Don’t be surprised if some stones seem to be on repeat at times while others aren’t as prevalent–this is how the soul heals itself–in its own time. The important thing is to look for opportunities in each of these areas. 

The Stones of Healing

Self-Study

Self-study is the commitment not to distract yourself with shame-spirals, fixing other people’s problems, or pretending you’re doing better than you are. Learning yourself includes identifying your emotions, needs, triggers, desires, old patterns, and boundaries. The more you know about yourself, the less you’ll allow other people to tell you who you are.

May I remind you: Know yourself the best. Love yourself the most.

Self-Love

Here is where you build the connection to your truth, bond with yourself, and learn how to show up and nurture yourself. Most of us have been told this is selfish, and we should sacrifice and give to others first.

May I remind you: You are worthy of taking the time to learn and to love yourself well.

Self-Compassion

In this stone where you learn and remember how to be kind to yourself, forgiving the times you sacrificed your own well-being for another, and practicing speaking kindly to yourself when you struggle to feel you are doing it “right.”

May I remind you: You are enough, just as you are in this moment.

Self-Awareness

This is understanding that no matter how the path unfolds, I alone am responsible for paying attention to myself and making sure I am following through with my commitments to myself, speaking what is true for me, and doing whatever it takes to create safety for myself. 

May I remind you: This “work” is ongoing, deeply rewarding, and completely empowering.

Being Self-Focused

Notice the path to loving yourself is entirely self-focused. You have the power to recreate, rebuild, reestablish whatever kind of life you dream of. No matter what anyone else has done to tear you apart, break you open, and leave you for dead, you still hold the key to your soul journey. You can honor your loss with your tears as you weep over what has been stolen from you. You can embrace the sacred privilege of being the only one who will ever be able to collect the scattered pieces of your soul that were always meant to be an enchanted mosaic. You were made to be a self-healer.

Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Sometimes people and life can be unnecessarily dark and inhumane. But as humans, we each carry an unprecedented ability to reconcile loss, recover from pain, and recreate our dreams. For every piece of you that feels broken today, there is an entire toolbox of skills and tools ready to be learned and used to help you rebuild a life you love and feel safe in. Life will never be what you imagined it would be before you became acquainted with domestic violence. Still, if you can give yourself time and patience as you begin to walk through these healing stones, you’ll find there is more than you ever thought imaginable right within your reach. 

Loving yourself after abuse means allowing yourself to dance across–to and fro, weaving in and out of–the four Stones of Healing (self-study, self-love, self-compassion, self-awareness)… for the rest of your life.

Navigating the COVID Holiday Season as a DV Survivor

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” or is it? The holidays are often thought of as a magical time, filled with family get-togethers, time off work, and the joy of giving and receiving gifts.

Despite the jolly perks, this time of the year can also be very tense  due to the financial strain of gifts, the pressure to entertain, conversations with relatives you may not get along with, and an increased level of alcohol consumption. 

Unfortunately, for many survivors of domestic violence (DV), the holidays can be more than just stressful– they can be dangerous. And when social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic is added to the mix, they can even be deadly.

Does Domestic Violence Increase During the Holidays?

When conducting a quick google search about whether or not DV increases during the holiday season, I was surprised to find many sources stating that it did not. After all, holidays are a stressful time of the year– according to one Harvard study, 62% of respondents reported their level of stress as “very or somewhat” elevated during the holiday season [3]. And, not surprisingly, stress, or trauma, is a significant risk factor for increasing instances of DV [1]

So, if the holidays are strained, and stress contributes to an increase in violence, why are calls to hotlines and DV related police reports down during this season [4]? The answer: statistics do not always tell the whole story.

There are many possibilities for why there is a mismatch between what we expect (an increase in violence) and what the numbers show (no increase/possible decrease). 

Call numbers are low. But why?

Because the holidays are supposed to be a happy time, full of hope, some victims may feel they need to “act the part.” Or, abusers could similarly use that sense of hope, believing they may be able to change their behavior. As Michelle Kaminsky, chief of a Domestic Violence Bureau, puts it, “I don’t know what the numbers mean. It could be that people aren’t reporting, and in fact, violence is going on. It could be that people are on their best behavior during the holidays. It’s really hard to say [5].”

Another possibility is that victims may have a difficult time contacting help via the police or a DV hotline when their partner is off work and home for the holidays. 

At least for some impacted by DV, the holidays are a dangerous, anxiety-inducing time. One survivor of DV, Charlotte Kneer, stated her experiences with the holiday season, “It’s the hardest time of year. The violence is so much more poignant. Everyone ran around to make sure [her abuser] didn’t get upset. They were hyper-vigilant to whether he was going to lose it [6].”

Jessica, another survivor of DV, remembers how her abuser manipulated her into avoiding her family around the holidays, keeping her isolated. Since escaping abuse, she is appreciative of being free to see her loved ones, “I will never let someone dictate when I can and can’t see [my family] again.”

In the end, it’s very hard to know, for sure, whether or not violence increases during the holidays. However, there is one thing we can recognize: no matter what statistics show, the holidays (with added tension, more time at home, and increased use of alcohol) definitely creates a strong recipe for abuse triggers. 

COVID-19 and DV

As discussed, the holidays themselves produce ample amounts of anxiety. However, 2020 has taken things to a whole new level. 

We are facing a worldwide pandemic, COVID-19. Talk about stress! A study found that 53% of adults in the US reported the pandemic as causing them to worry, which has been linked to an increase in DV [7]

Here, the statistics align a little more closely to what we expect than what we saw with the holidays. Globally, DV rates have soared since the start of the pandemic. Women in Lebanon reported a 54% increase in violence and DV rose 30% in France [2]. This upward trend is consistent across most of the world. 

Yet, there are still untold stories within the statistics. Similar to DV calls decreasing during the holidays, the US hasn’t seen a verifiable increase in rates during the pandemic, and some areas have actually seen a decrease  [2].

But, advocates urge us not to fall for any illusions, explaining that the decrease in rates is likely due to the difficult access to resources and reporting opportunities caused by shutdowns. To add, the rate of murder-suicides (defined as a male partner killing a female and then himself) has increased. Referred to by some as a “pandemic within a pandemic,” DV is certainly increasing due to COVID-19 [2].

A Dangerous Mix

The combination of stress and social isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic and the holidays is a dangerous mix for DV survivors. 

This year, there will be thousands of DV victims who are unable to find comfort in visiting their family members as an escape from their violent partner. There will be abused mothers who refuse to call for help because they want their children to have a merry Christmas. There will be parents grieving the loss of their child to an abusive relationship. And for many families affected by DV, it will be the hardest time of their year. 

If this resonates with you, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, or one of the BTSADV advocates. This season is difficult enough to navigate for those without battle scars, so we hope that you reach out and let us help you carry that additional suffering. 

For assistance setting up a DV safety plan for the holidays, or anytime, visit KSAT.com.

For more information about COVID-19 and DV, see guidelines and advice set forth from the CDC

References

  1. Abramson, A. (2020, April 8). How COVID-19 may increase domestic violence and child abuse. http://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/domestic-violence-child-abuse
  2. Cagle, T. (2020). Domestic violence statistics are surging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nautilus. https://coronavirus.nautil.us/domestic-violence-statistics/
  3. Edwards, S. (2020). Holiday stress and the brain. Harvard Medical School. https://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain/holiday-stress-and-brain
  4. Violence Free Colorado. (2020). Does domestic violence increase during the holidays? https://www.violencefreecolorado.org/2014/12/faq-dv-during-the-holidays/
  5. Gwynne, K. (2015, January 2). Does domestic violence actually rise during the holidays? Vice. https://www.vice.com/en/article/kwpjwv/does-domestic-violence-actually-rise-during-the-holidays-1201
  6. Oppenheim, M. (2015, December 22). “It’s the hardest time of the year”: why domestic violence spikes over Christmas. Newstatesman. https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2015/12/it-s-hardest-time-year-why-domestic-violence-spikes-over-christmas
  7. Panchal, N., Kamal, R., Orgera, K., Cox, C., Garfield, R., Hamel, L., Munana, C., Chidambaram, P.(2020). The implications of COVID-19 for mental health and substance use. Kaiser Family Foundation. https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

The Art of Healing After Domestic Violence

art of healing after abuse

The physical markers of abuse may have faded, but the spiritual and psychological scarring from domestic violence may last a long time after a victim leaves her abuser. Even though the road to healing from past trauma can be long, it is possible to regain what you had lost someday. Some days will be harder than others, it’s true. But acknowledging that healing is a journey that requires self-compassion, a support network, some setbacks and a lot of time can help you set realistic goals for yourself toward becoming whole again.

Healing in Therapy

Therapy can sometimes be difficult, even exhausting at times–but it is highly recommended in helping survivors move past their abuse and avoid dangerous relationships in the future. Try to find a mental health professional that is the right fit for you, if possible. For example, some counselors have a religious framework that they use in their therapy; others do not. It’s imperative that you can feel comfortable talking openly with your practitioner so that you can explore your trauma and begin healing.

Adopt a Mindset of Self-Compassion

Healing from domestic violence is rarely a linear path. It is important to keep in mind that like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief a survivor may find herself moving forward in her healing process, and then may plateau or even regress for a time. This is all normal. Survivors must keep this in mind and seek to adopt a mindset of self-compassion as they move through their journey of healing. Being judgmental to oneself is unhelpful. Avoid thoughts about what the healing journey “should” look like. Instead, survivors need to focus on allowing themselves whatever space and time necessary in order to feel whole again.

Small wins

Didn’t cry today? Were you able to expose yourself to something that might have been a trigger before? Whatever and whenever possible, celebrate your new life and the strength and courage it has taken for you to get where you are. Whether you are just starting on your healing journey, or you are years down the road, remember that you are your own hero of your story. Consider treating yourself with something special–a favorite dessert, a new book, or maybe even a pedicure. Studies show that rewarding yourself when trying to build new habits help you to stay the course. 

Friendships/Family

Trust can be a difficult thing for survivors. After all, you were hurt by someone you trusted deeply–how can you ever trust anyone again? The truth is, there are people in your life who genuinely care about you and have your best interests at heart. Find those people, and bring them in as much as you can. It is okay to allow others to help you, especially when you’re struggling. Accept the offers to cook you dinner, help you clean your house, or look for a new job. And when a friend lends a shoulder to cry on, go ahead and take it if it helps you feel better.

Meditation/Mindfulness

One of the most difficult parts of healing after domestic violence is confronting and acknowledging the difficult emotions that come up. Sometimes we may feel totally swept up in our emotions, and don’t know how to react in a way that is helpful to our journey, instead of harmful. 

One way to learn to do this is by regular meditation or mindfulness practice. By being present in the moment, survivors can avoid relieving the traumatizing experiences of their past and lessen the anxious thoughts about the future. Meditation seeks to cultivate this skill–by practicing meditation or mindfulness for a minimum of 15 minutes a day can help us to identify and name our pain, become more present; and think about what we truly value and what we want our futures to look like.

Alternatives to Meditation

Not into meditation? Try an activity that requires much of your attention to reap the same benefits. Many people find healing in sewing, jogging, yoga, etc. Find an activity that you enjoy and requires concentration and make it a regular part of your week. Try to harness the pain energy into things that are healthy and good for you. You deserve all the love and attention you can get.

Setbacks & Struggles

Occasionally, survivors find themselves experiencing setbacks in their healing process. Be forgiving and gentle with yourself. As mentioned above, healing after any kind of trauma is very rarely linear. You will have good days and you will have not-so-good days. Lean on your support network when times are tough. Call your family, set up a date with a friend–do whatever you need to do for yourself to feel better on those difficult days.

Time

The ultimate healer, unfortunately, is out of our control. As the mantra goes, “time heals all wounds.” While you cannot alter the passage of time, you can control what you do with your time. Staying busy is one of the most effective ways to keep your mind away from the violence you suffered. Many mental health therapists prescribe occupational therapy as a pathway to healing. 

Someday, you will find yourself on the other side of your pain. You will heal from the trauma you have experienced. You are worthy of love, and you will not always carry this weight with you. Remember you can always reach out to Break The Silence Against Domestic Violence to speak directly with a trained professional. Our advocates are available 7 days a week at 855-BTS-1777 from 8am-5pm (Pacific Standard Time) to confidentially talk with anyone experiencing/overcoming domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.

Photo Credit: Katherine Hanlon, via Unsplash