Nov. 16, 2013 _ Domestic violence reeked havoc in my life, my children’s and to this day, eight years after the last physical assault, still weighs on my heart. It doesn’t help that I must, by court order, have limited contact with my abuser, the father of my children. Imagine being forced to communicate with someone who beat you up, assaulted you, called you every name in the book, betrayed you and repeatedly used you _ it sucks.
But, today, I’m healthier emotionally than I have ever been and it is in large part due to great counseling from a very well trained domestic abuse counselor at my local DV agency. With therapy, I am processing the trauma of abuse and healing from PTSD, a condition I never through applied to me.
If you are involved in some way with a domestic abuser, my prayers are with you. I know that your life is harder than most realize. I hope that you will seek help from a very good therapist who understands domestic abuse.
Here are my tips to learning to cope and recover:
1. If you are still living with your abuser, please make a plan to leave as soon as you can. If you have children together, it is very important to meet with an attorney first, before leaving. Many states have antiquated family law that doesn’t yet recognize the facts and dangers about DV. You need to get as much custody of your children as you can and have as much in writing as possible. Please don’t live in the fantasy that you will be able to work together post divorce as parents. Sadly, your abuser is more likely to use your children as a way to continue to control and get power.
2. Get help from your local domestic abuse service. Google domestic abuse and your city to find out who and where you can get help. You need help from people who understand the difficulties you face. Domestic abuse is a crime and like most crimes, it results in a traumatized victim and a demented criminal, and that is hard enough of course. But, with domestic abuse, the victim is often falsely accused of causing the abuse and held at least partly responsible for the dynamic. The legal system, friends and family can cause further trauma, as a result. A good therapist can help you process all of those feelings in a way that can help your recovery. Please don’t try to go it alone. I think it is impossible to recover without the help of good people in your corner.
3. Grieve the loss of your “traditional” life. This means, you must walk through the pain of grief, which is not easy to do after going through the pain of abuse. But, grieving is a healthy step, one that we often gloss over. It is Ok to cry about your disappointment, fear and pain. No one gets married believing that they are going to end up in a mess. It sucks and you deserve to have a bunch of days in tears over it. The best thing about grieving is that when its over, days, weeks, months later, you will feel so much better and the clouds will begin to clear.
4. If you have children together, spend a lot of time working through every parenting issue you think you might face in the future and get it in writing now. The more you have on paper, the less chance your abuser will have to continue to abuse. Get as much spelled out as possible about the kids’ schedules, schooling, medical decisions, activities, church, vacations, drop offs and pick ups, and so on. Don’t spend too much time trying to control how your ex cares for your children, no matter how worried you are about his judgment. Judges don’t like parents who try to control what an ex does with the children. But, when it comes to how you two work together, get it in writing. Abusers love gray areas, because it gives them a way to fight. Abusers really enjoy fighting.
5. Build a new life in ways that make you happy and brings joy. Go back to school. Get a new job. Move. Take care of yourself. This is one of the hardest goals to achieve because it takes two things most victims don’t have, money and time. But, it is so important. Do your best to find ways to take care of yourself and don’t judge yourself too harshly. You have been through hell and you need to understand you aren’t perfect.
6. Cut people out of your life that judge your marriage with the abuser. You do not need anyone in your life who wants to “stay neutral” or think that have a ligitimate opinion on your life together. They don’t. You need to surround yourself with people who love you, support you and have only the best comments to say to you. If someone wants to tell you how to get over it, get along with your ex or how to feel, you need to find a new friend. Victims are often co-dependents, and really bad at recognizing a good friend vs. a bad one. Tell yourself over and over that you need supportive friends and family only at this time. It is no time to give your time to the wrong people.
7. Work hard to keep distance between you and your abuser. For safety reasons, you need to distance. No contract or limited contact is advised for emotional and physical safety. Work hard at breaking the ties that bind you with your abuser. It takes time, but keep at it. You will be thankful when you finally realize your abuser is completely out of your life.