An Open Letter To Victims of Domestic Abuse
You're Not Alone
I know it’s hard. I know sometimes you feel like you can’t possibly make it another day, but you can. I know that at times you feel so broken, so used and forgotten. You feel like you can’t possibly survive. At times you will see a story that reminds you that your relationship is not okay. It’s not healthy at best and dangerous at worst. You know that you can’t stay, but leaving seems impossible. Why should you have to give up so much in order to escape? Why are you being punished because he is a monster?
For some, he will have broken you down so much that you think you can’t survive without him…you can. He will have made you believe that you are worthless, unlovable and that no one else will ever want you. He will have stripped you from your independence, so you no longer feel that you have the ability to make decisions and care for yourself and your family without him.
For some, he will have not only broken your spirit, but your body as well. He has hurt you in unimaginable ways with both his fists and his words. Often you will have no idea what you did to deserve his anger and punishments. The truth is you didn’t deserve it, even though he will tell you that you did.
You will probably have gotten used to walking on egg shells. You will be afraid that the slightest thing could set him off. It’s so strange how such small things can cause him to go into fits of rage. It’s even stranger that one day it will cause extreme anger and the next something very similar will cause a very calm and normal reaction. You will have gotten used to living in a constant state of fear because no matter how hard you try, you end up causing an angry reaction from him.
Chances are your life is not really yours. Every move you make is controlled by him; Who you can be friends with, where you can go, what types of activities you can participate in, what you wear, how you spend your money – every aspect of your life is controlled by him. By now you probably don’t know what freedom feels like. You have forgotten what you enjoy in life. When you do find something he will destroy that for you as well.
Maybe you live in fear of his threats. He has threatened to hurt you, your children, loved ones or pets. At times when he was angry with you, he destroyed something that you valued. You have learned that nothing is safe and it’s best to just keep him happy. Eventually, you may even stop making friends or spending time with family because you worry about their safety.
By now you think that leaving is impossible. You can’t face all that leaving entails with no self-esteem or confidence. How could you? But you can. You will find a support network. You just have to reach out. Most cities have women’s shelters or Victim Services. These services will provide you with a safe place for you and your children. They will help you find permanent housing, help with legal matters, finances and provide you with the counseling needed to help you overcome your hardships.
If you feel your life may be in danger, please take this seriously. Only you know the situation you live in and you know what will keep you safe. Still, please reach out. Find a safe way to call a shelter and get advice from trained professionals. They will help you make a safety plan.
Sometimes you will leave and go back. People will judge you, but please don’t judge yourself. Studies show that it often takes women 7 times to leave for good. You will face hardships and at times you will want to go back to what is familiar. Sometimes you just can’t safely leave and stay gone. Other times something may be happening in your life that you are not ready to give up (education, a new well-paying job, etc). Of course it is ideal to leave and never go back, but if you do go back please remember that this is quite common. You also need to remember that your life is more important than anything else. I understand, how hard that is to believe when you look in the mirror and feel worthless, but your life matters.
Sometimes your abuser will stalk you and threaten you. Please take this seriously. Stalking is a warning sign of extreme danger. Do what you need to do to keep yourself safe and reach out for help. Stalkers are men who think you belong to them and they have the right to control you. These men are very difficult to break free from and you won’t be able to do it alone. Trust me.
You probably love your abuser or at least care for them. You had many happy memories between the abuse. You will grieve the loss of your partner and that’s okay. Your partner will likely have many good qualities, as well as bad. Don’t think that you shouldn’t grieve the loss of them because they abused you. Also, give yourself time to adjust to being on your own; it’s a huge change.
Give yourself time and allow yourself to process everything. You need time to heal and adjust. Reach out to others. You have nothing to be ashamed of. 1 in 3 women have dealt with abuse. Don’t let shame keep you from asking for help. Most importantly, remember you can do it.