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November 18, 2015

Ask Me Anything: Abused Woman Can’t Move On. {Weekly Advice Column}

Flickr/Bailey Weaver

Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here. 

~

Dear Elephants, 

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected]I look forward to hearing from you! ~ Erica

Dear Erica,

I have recently left my husband after years of an abusive relationship. We were together for almost 15 years and we have two children aged 10 and five.

Though I am confident I did the right thing, I find myself mired in depression. The kids blame me for uprooting their lives (we had to leave our big, beautiful home and are now living in an apartment in another town) and I don’t really have anyone to count on for support. My parents are very understanding but they live in another country. I don’t have any friends.

I barely have the energy to get out of bed, much less work and take care of the kids like I’m supposed to. My husband will not help out financially unless I force him to, and that is a long, complicated process.

I find myself fantasizing about running away. The only person I could leave my kids with is my husband, and I could never do that to them. He was bad enough when I was there to take the brunt of his anger. But I can’t go on like this.

How can I get past this relationship and move on with my life?

~ Want to Run Away

Dear Want,

First, let me commend you for extracting yourself from what was obviously a painful and destructive situation for you and your children. That took great bravery and resolve.

Second, everything you (and your children) are feeling and thinking is completely natural.

One of the most common side effects of being in, or having been in, an abusive relationship is isolation. Abusers isolate their victims to create dependance and paralysis.

Despite your obvious depression, the first thing you’re going to need to do is start to re-build lost connections with friends and family. These are the people who will help hold you up through this challenging time.

Try to think of at least two people with whom you used to be close and pick up the phone. Tell them what’s going on and why you “disappeared” for so long. Don’t let your fear of being judged keep you silent.

You also need to reach out for professional support. Go to your primary care physician and be honest about what has happened. She will refer you to a mental health care specialist. From there, you can find resources for local groups for abuse survivors for you and your kids.

Trust me, there are a lot of you out there, and with each other’s help you can find clarity and strength.

There is no easy way to move through this experience, but you’ve already taken the first step. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Flickr/Andrea Rose

Dear Erica,

I am an 18-year-old college freshmen. My family is Greek, and very old fashioned, and I wasn’t even allowed to date in high school.

When I got to college I got a job as a waitress at a nearby restaurant. Everyone there was really nice, and I liked working there.

After a while I realized I kind of had a crush on my manager, who was about 10 years older than me. We flirted a lot, but nothing more. We never went out or were even alone or anything.

One night, I was closing the restaurant and it was just me and him. He was getting all flirty like usual, and I was too. He was drinking and he wanted me to drink, but I only had a Coke because I don’t drink.

After we finished cleaning up we were sitting at the bar and he started kissing me. He was being really pushy and I think he was really drunk. I didn’t want to make him mad and I didn’t know what to do. We ended up having sex on the floor there. I said “no” and asked him to stop, but he didn’t seem to care or hear me, and I just let it happen. It was my first time.

Since then, I haven’t told anyone. He hasn’t called me and I’m scared to go into work. I’m afraid of what might happen if my parents found out—he is Greek and we know a lot of the same people. I feel sick and horrible about it. I never want to see him again. I want to forget the whole thing.

I can’t stop crying. I’m so disappointed in myself.  I have no idea what to do.

Was this my fault? Or his fault?

What do you think?

~ Ashamed

Dear Ashamed,

I think you have nothing to be ashamed of—but I understand your sadness and confusion.

In most circles what you are describing would be considered rape, but you’re right that the people from your culture might not see it that way.

Regardless of what we label it, this was not your fault. This person was in a position of power over you—and he took advantage of that, as well as your youth and naiveté– to get something he wanted without caring what effect it might have on you.

Yes, you flirted with him, but when things got serious you told him to stop. He didn’t, he’s at fault, end of story.

What happens now is up to you. I would start by going to student health services on your campus. The people there will be compassionate and helpful as you decide how to move forward. You may want to file a police report, or you may decide that is too overwhelming.

Whatever you choose, know that you can heal from this, but that you will need support to do so—whether that be in a trusted friend, a counselor, a clergy member, or even your family.

 

Relephant Read:

How can we Emotionally Move On from a Break-Up?

8 Lessons Rape at 18 Taught me in my 40s. {Adult}

 

Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Bailey Weaver/Flickr, Andrea Rose/Flickr

 

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