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Taking away blame: how to normalise your experiences after domestic abuse

Domestic Abuse

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3rd November 2021

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Laura Harris

By Sue Penna, Joint Chief Executive, Rock Pool

The very nature of domestic abuse is designed to enable one person to misuse their power to dominate and control others.

What makes this such a painful and dehumanising experience is that it is executed by a person who allegedly loves you.  

Survival instincts enable us to make unconscious psychological adaptations to our thought processes so we can manage the risk we know we are experiencing.

However, post abuse these distortions in our thinking can continue and it is quite normal to feel the following emotions.

It is common for those who have experienced abuse to self-blame and believe the abuse was their fault because they were not good enough, provoked it, were not lovable etc.  But that is not surprising as the person hurting you would have been telling you that for a long time.  It is brainwashing and one of the first steps to recovery is accepting that you were not   to blame, and it is common for those that have been through abuse to feel the same.  

Lack of confidence and self-esteem is a by-product of being controlled in daily life. Having any decision making taken from you or challenged, not being able to see friends or having to get permission for all you did, erodes all confidence and the less we do something the less capable we feel.

Post abuse individuals can feel isolated having been separated from friend and family during the abuse and struggling to be able to trust others. It is hardly surprising trusting people is an issue when the person you should have been able to trust with your life was the very person that threatened it.

Emotional distress manifesting as depression, anxiety or complex post-traumatic stress disorder are common. Partly due to years of an over aroused nervous system and partly because of the effort involved in managing the risk and fear when living with abuse.

Some people continue to use strategies they started to survive the abuse, alcohol or drug use is a common coping strategy and can take time to resolve. You would have used this to cope with the abuse, your substance use would not have caused the abuse whatever your abuser said.

Feeling grief after an abusive relationship ends doesn’t mean you did the wrong thing in ending the relationship. The grief is for what might have been, the dreams, the potential for the person you loved not the person who abused you. There may be other emotions you experience post abuse that are confusing and challenging but the most important message is that you were nor responsible for what happened to you the only person responsible was the person abusing you.

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