Isolation and domestic violence. They cannot be separated.
Isolation is the first step an abuser uses to convince a victim that their controller is the most important person in the world. By using isolation as a method to cut off family and friends, the abusive partner has a greater amount of control in the relationship.
Isolation can create the opportunity for the abusive partner to escalate to other harmful behaviors. The survivor may feel they have no one to talk to. They don’t see someone to lean on during their greatest time of need.
How does isolation start?
Isolation can start subtly, such as the abuser telling their partner what activities they can join, checking in to see where they are at, at all times, or telling them to quit activities because the only thing that should matter is the relationship. They can also tell their partner to quit their job because it is taking away from the relationship. In these cases, a survivor may be completely dependent on their partner financially.
The abuser will try to make their partner feel that they are alone. They will try their very best to damage their victim’s friendships and relationships with relatives. Abusers will criticize and belittle their victims if they receive too much attention. Abusers may even listen to conversations their victim might have to use it against them. Victims tend to focus on their abuser and design their lives around them. This at times, can be a matter of keeping the peace or in severe instances, a matter of survival.
The effects of isolation
Even after a survivor leaves, they have to deal with the aftermath of isolation and of the abuse. The following is a list that describes what survivors may feel and go through after they leave. Survivors may find themselves:
- Unable to identify their own feelings,
- Unable to make simple decisions,
- Unable to feel safe alone; in the quietness of their homes,
- Feeling detached from people in their lives,
- Feeling anxiety, this can range from mild to panic attacks,
- Being fearful for their safety and their children,
- Having difficulty concentrating,
- Unable to socialize and make new friends,
- Developing depression or depressive symptoms,
- Experiencing social anxiety.
How to end isolation and find a fresh start
This is a process that is different for everyone. It is okay to take your time; it is your healing process as you cross to other side of pain.
Remember you are no longer a victim, you are a survivor.
For some time, you lived isolated from family and friends; you and your thoughts were controlled by your abuser. But you are no longer in their grasp.
I can still remember the first year that I left my abuser, all I did was stay in survival mode. I found a job and did my best to provide for my kids and, oh, how I cried and cried. I was scared to come out of my little apartment. I was scared to make eye-contact with people around me, let alone speak to them. Everywhere I went, I could hear his booming voice- his evil words towards me. Every time I saw myself in the mirror, I heard him.
Little by little, I pushed out his voice and insults. Every time I heard his voice, I chose to say something positive about myself or situation. For one, I was free! I was no longer living with someone who wanted to hurt me, or insult me. I could sleep and live in peace.
I made small changes in my life. I shopped in different stores than before, I started to read, and take walks. I started to make friends at work where I learned to laugh freely and with each passing day, I became stronger inside.
I will never forget the morning that I felt like I had become me again. I had discovered all the things I was in love with and enjoyed doing. I remember saying to myself,” Cesiah, you found yourself again!” I became my own friend. A friend who had been lost in 18 years of abuse and had been rediscovered.
I want you to know that it is normal to have the feelings of wanting to stay home and never come out, it is normal to feel anxious about going out to stores or to make eye-contact with people and socialize with others.
Take small steps towards healing. Maybe you are not ready to venture out into this world but when you are read, do take small steps to new adventures. Maybe it’s going for drives around the community, visiting new areas close by, drinking coffee and reading a book in a café for a few minutes a day, taking small walks in a park or seeing the sunset. It is also important to speak to someone about what you are going through; maybe joining a support group in your community or Facebook can be beneficial.
These are just small suggestions to try. Again, your healing process will be different but do know that you are loved and that you are no longer a victim of domestic violence, you, my sister, are a survivor!
New and beautiful adventures await you.