I’m a survivor of abuse.
And as a survivor, I’ve been lucky enough to talk with other survivors.
There are curiously similar lessons about our experiences.
Abuse isn’t always physical. There’s an idea that exists that for something to be considered abuse, it has to leave physical marks. This notion is utter bullsh*t.
Some tactics that abusers use include:
Stonewalling: Refusing to listen to the other person and discuss, in good faith, solutions to issues.
Gaslighting: Making the victim question their own reality, sanity and memory. This is truly a mindf*cking tactic.
Manipulation: Trying to get someone to do something they don’t want to do usually in a manner other than directly asking for it.
Deflection: Directs actions away from their actions and shifts blame away from themselves onto someone else.
Grooming: Slowly desensitizes victim to abusive tactics. This is one of the hardest behaviors to peg down. The survivor feels confused about the abuser’s intent and often feels special in the relationship.
Controlling behavior: This can include physical or emotional control. From the outside it may look like nothing at all.
Financial abuse: This can either manifest as control of money or punishing the victim for spending.
Abuse is often cyclical.
It took me a long time to see this cycle.
1. Tension happens first: family issues, job pressures or miscommunication add to the feeling of unease. The abuser feels on edge, so as a result, the victim becomes compliant or nurturing.
2. An outburst occurs in which the abuser tries to dominate the victim.
3. Honeymooning is when the abuser may feel remorse and makes gestures that may seem loving to the victim or show that they are making an effort to change.
4. Calm. All seems peaceful for just a moment. This is where I always found my breath when I was with my abuser.
This cycle goes around and around until it’s stopped.
Abuse often correlates with the victim having a negative self-image.
Victims will think things like, “I had it coming” or ask, “what’s wrong with me?” I confess I thought this for years before I realized I never deserved such mistreatment. Victims suffer low self-worth because we start to believe the horrible lies our abusers tell us. Even worse, we feel ashamed that we’re struggling so much, which makes it hard for us to reach out.
Truthfully, we are not the way our abusers described us.
Victims of abuse need care and love.
We need love from our family and friends, but even more we need to learn to love ourselves.
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde
I learn to love myself more everyday little by little.
I’m still dealing with recovering from the aftermath of abuse, but I’m slowly getting better. I’m learning to deal with my triggers in a healthy manner and treat myself with the love and acceptance I deserve.
Author: Lindsay Lock
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Image: Lauren Treece/Flickr