- Abuse often has short-term and long-term effects on those who fall victim to it, as it is a seriously distressing experience.
- Life can alter in a few ways, after the abuse; for example, one might have trouble trusting future partners or avoid romantic relationships altogether.
- Additionally, one can experience a range of emotions that are hard to understand and manage, but of which ultimately helps the individual heal moving forward.
- Now, to heal properly, one should seek refuge in their loved ones and also seek guidance from a mental health professional.
- Both your loved ones and a mental health professional can offer you the support that you need and help you make an effective plan for moving forward with your life.
Abuse—be it physical, emotional, mental—is a distressing experience. One that often has many short-term and long-term effects on those who fall victim to it. So, in short, an abusive relationship can change you in a lot of ways. But that doesn’t mean there’s no hope for healing from the abuse and moving forward with your life.
A Look at Life After the Abuse
First, let’s cover how abuse in a relationship might alter life as you currently know it (but remember, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel). One effect is the individual’s view of future relationships. Victims of abuse often have a hard time trusting future partners and sometimes, they even evade potential romantic relationships. Additionally, they struggle to process and manage difficult feelings—of which, however, ultimately plays a role in their recovery. Patricia Speck, a nurse practitioner at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who specializes in forensic nursing and sexual violence, explains:
“Once a person experiences violence, it becomes part of their life’s journey. The person may feel sad, even depressed, about the loss of what they expected in the beginning of the relationship. Loss of the initial loving attention, overcome by threats and/or physical harm provokes feelings of shame, but the outright fear of injury and recognition that the injured is not inviting the assaultive behavior is the motivation necessary to process the experience.”
She goes on to explain that if the two are still linked in some way (say they share children or a bank account), it can be even more difficult for the victim to say goodbye to the relationship and abusive partner. “Overcoming the betrayal of and separation from an intimate partner is hard for young and older people alike, especially when there are strong feelings of affection remaining. The uncertainty of the future, especially if there are children or animals, common property or bank accounts, and lack of social support are barriers to leaving and recovery.”
How to Heal and Recover: Two Keys
Speck highlights the importance of making a plan for moving forward. First, you have to make the decision to prioritize your wellbeing and get out of the dangerous situation. If you need a vote of confidence or some simple guidance, your personal support system as well as a mental health professional can help you take that leap and also assist you in starting anew. “Recovery is a process that starts with a decision to leave or report, and planning with professional and family support builds personal confidence in the capacity to survive and eventually thrive,” she explains. “Planning is a deliberate and necessary secret to reclaim your identity, finances, and job. Seeking counseling helps a person reflect about all the personal decisions made, and how to avoid future similar decisions.”
She goes on to explain just how helpful talking to your loved ones and working with a mental health professional can be (especially one who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy) when it comes to healing from trauma. “There are two things associated with overcoming traumatic events: social support for personal decisions and cognitive behavioral therapy that teaches skills in empowered decision making.” When it comes down to it, Speck says the biggest takeaway message is this: “Healing takes time because it is a process, healing is more efficient with cognitive behavioral therapy, and thriving after domestic violence and/or sexual assault is possible in your life’s journey that starts with taking the first step.”