Domestic abuse can be a traumatic, life-altering experience. However, it’s important for those going through this to know that there is hope for a better future. The first step to leaving an abusive relationship is the bravest, but the process of starting over can be an overwhelming one. If you are in this situation, this short guide will provide you with practical resources and tips that you may find helpful in rebuilding your life and finding the support you need to heal and move on.
Understanding the Emotional Journey
Leaving an abusive relationship can bring up a wide range of emotions. In abusive relationships, it is not uncommon to be ‘trauma bonded’ to the abuser. This means that you’re effectively addicted to the highs and lows of the relationship. Most abusers are not abusive all the time. Throughout the relationship, you cling on to hope for better moments, creating a trauma bond.
When you leave, it can often feel like you are going cold turkey from a drug. And in some ways, you are. Your body and mind are addicted to the dopamine and oxytocin rush you get when your abuser is kind and loving toward you. You may feel a range of emotions including fear, guilt, anger, and sadness. During this time, it’s important to have the right support around you to help you stay strong. Reach out to supportive family and friends, a therapist, or a support group.
Finding Safe Housing
If you are in immediate danger, finding a safe place to stay as soon as possible is crucial. You can do this by reaching out to a local domestic violence shelter that can help. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, which can provide you with further resources.
If you are not in immediate danger, a housing specialist might be able to help you find somewhere safe to live that you can afford. It’s important to keep your new location private. Consider getting a PO Box, and don’t post any details of the move on social media. You can also reach out to a lawyer to get help with the practical side of things and take legal action against your abuser, including keeping them away from your new home.
Taking Care of Your Emotional and Physical Wellbeing
As you rebuild your life, your physical and emotional well-being should be your main priority. Seek medical attention for any injuries you have sustained and consider therapy to address the trauma you have been through. You can also help yourself by engaging in self-care activities. Although there will be times when this can feel difficult to you, you will ultimately feel better and stronger if you take steps to look after yourself, such as engaging in regular exercise and eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Escaping domestic abuse can be one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do. While it’s easy for others to advise ‘just leave’, the reality can be much harder. By focusing on your physical and emotional safety and well-being and putting the right support in place, you can begin to rebuild your life free from abuse.
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