“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” -Michael J. Fox
Abuse devastates the psyche and rapes the mind in ways that no person should ever experience. Even worse than the experience itself are the ghosts and shadows that haunt victims afterward of sleep, hope, and even pieces of their identity. It’s truly a unique experience that one cannot pretend to understand. It’s something that should never be belittled or negated when attempting to relate to someone who has been abused.
There are some who have escaped the chains of their past who feel that they can learn and move on, and others who feel that talking about their experience makes them relive it. It’s important to remember that no two people or experiences are the same, and everyone will process, cope, and heal differently and at a different pace.
In my own struggle to heal from abuse, I have been in both states of mind: learning or running from the memories. As a part of my healing journey, I have been committed to writing down my thoughts to mark my progress and validate my pain. My abuser never acknowledged her behavior or how it affected me, and even denied the abuse. It’s what drives me to write about my experiences now, two years later.
Here are some things that I can honestly say I have learned through undoubtedly the worst times in my life. I pray that my reflections can help others to move past their past.
I have weaknesses that are exploitable, and I can do something about them
I allowed someone to abuse me for years. I was too weak to stand up for myself and was easily manipulated. People who are/were abused aren’t stupid. It’s not a matter of intelligence to see what’s going on around them. Victims often know what’s happening in the relationship, but they make excuses for their abuser—or they feel trapped. Whether or not someone is actually trapped doesn’t matter: if they feel trapped, that is their reality…not freedom. Freedom isn’t even an option most consider until their physical or mental health reach an extreme state. This is what happened to me.
Learning that I was easily manipulated, although hard to admit, is extremely valuable. I am now fully aware of my weaknesses that put me in harm’s way over and over again. I can make better decisions next time. I can ask my husband, family, friends, and God for help to never enter into another abusive or unhealthy relationship again. I can start over feeling like I have some control over my life, and more wisdom than I had before. I can start to feel more empowered by my experience, and less victimized. Embracing your flaws will illuminate the darkness of your pain. Don’t hide from them.
If you know the pain of abuse, let me share the verse that has brought me great comfort in times of confusion and pain: Romans 8:28 “And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” I have come to rest on the promise that God can even turn the worst times of my life into a blessing, and as time passes I see His hands making my life beautiful again.
Allowing others to define me is dangerous
When I met my abuser I was more a child than a young adult. I was sixteen years old, naive, lonely, and had a history of abuse. I was unsure of everything trying to find my identity. I was awkward, shy, and ashamed of the way I looked; starving for acceptance from my peers. She offered me identity, purpose, and acceptance. I thought a friendship with her was an answer to my prayers. She was nice and complimented me. She built up my self-esteem. She told me things that made me dream about my future. The words that she said, I held onto and received them as my identity.
When she became my most influential friend, I abandoned other Godly advice–becoming more deceived and controlled.
All of the things she said that I allowed to define me, actually defined me. I gave her that power. I didn’t know what God had planned for me, so when she showed up with all the “answers”…in my naïveté I believed her. I believed she had privileged knowledge about me, and this gave her power over me. This power enabled her to define me, my relationships, my relationship with God, and my outlook on life. She could lead me wherever she wanted because she had no accountability and I didn’t require it of her. I slowly allowed her to tell me what I was thinking, feeling, and doing—even when she was [utterly and completely] grossly incorrect. I have been away from her for almost two years now, and I still struggle to find my identity, purpose, and acceptance of myself.
This has done tremendous damage on my mental and emotional health. I will never allow another person to define me again. I know now that God is the only one I can trust to give me purpose and destiny. He calls me His daughter, sent His Son to die for my sins, and offers me hope for life on Earth and eternity after. His words and commands define my behavior, and His passions give me purpose. He has given me an amazing husband, and supportive family to help me see who I really am despite the massive amount of lies I believed. When I am accused of evil, or misjudged, I now hold onto the knowledge that God knows my heart even when others don’t.
There are few I can trust with my story
When I first left my abuser and she (of course) retaliated, it hit me hard like a bus, even though some of my friends and family warned me. I still cared for my abuser and her family. I was dumbfounded when it happened and it consumed my thoughts for more than a year after. It kept me up at night and plagued me in my dreams. I had flashbacks and panic attacks during the day. I hardly left the house or slept, and I felt emotionally exhausted and on the verge of a breakdown.
People who are hurting can’t always hide their pain.. It may come out as depression, irritation, or anger, but it will start to come out. I had covered up what I could for years to protected my abuser, but now I was done protecting her. As the impact and weight of her betrayal of thirteen years came flooding back, a flood of memories overwhelmed me: painting a horrible picture of my life, and I was drowning in them.
In my vulnerability and brokenness, I ended up sharing some of the most painful moments of my life with “friends.” I decided to trust people that had limited knowledge of my abuser and who didn’t know me very well. They offered comfort and secrecy—but would come to defend my abuser and shift the blame on me. Some even went to my abuser and gave her ammo that she used to attack me.
I trusted the wrong people with my most vulnerable information and hoped for support that they couldn’t offer. Learn from my mistake. If you are doubting the ability of a “friend” to understand the depth of your pain or the complexity of your situation, then find someone else…. even a stranger (counselor) had more empathy and understanding for me than some of my so-called friends. The important thing to remember though is to just tell someone, but be smart and guard your heart 🙂
I’m allowed to set strict boundaries to protect my mental, emotional, and physical health
Regardless of what other people think or say about your story, no one understands what you are going through or went through but you and God. It doesn’t matter if everyone else thinks that you will be fine if you talk to or see your abuser again: that is a decision for you and the people who know you best to make. You have every right to choose to completely shut this person out of your life. Most victims of abuse try for years to work out the relationship and just get hurt even more before having to go into hiding or seek legal action for protection.
In regards to getting closure: you can forgive someone without ever telling them personally. You can ask God for forgiveness for what you may have done wrong, without ever talking to your abuser again. You can sort through issues and arguments and accusations with a counselor and your family. You can defend yourself with a lawyer and witnesses, but you never have to allow your abuser to have access to you again—period.
It’s time to fight for yourself and establish boundaries that protect you from being abused again. Ask for help determining and establishing boundaries from your spouse, family, closest friends, and a counselor or minister for help. Reach out to abuse hot-lines and websites. Make a pros and cons list of each boundary and write them down to hold yourself accountable.
Last but not least, don’t ever feel obligated to explain or validate your boundaries to others—and especially your abuser.
Love and God bless
If you are currently being abused, tell someone you trust today.
You can also visit http://nnedv.org/
Or call: The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) http://www.ndvh.org/
National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or http://www.rainn.org/get-help/national-sexual-assault-hotline https://ohl.rainn.org/online/”>https://ohl.rainn.org/online/
If you are unsure you can take this basic quiz:
For Supplemental Reading: A book I HIGHLY recommend is to help prevent abuse is
Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend
Check out Amazon for used or new, Kindle for digital, or your local Library for a free version 🙂
More sites you can copy and paste in your browser: