Love shouldn’t hurt – ever

Letting go of the person who controlled you
Abuse takes a hold on people not just physically but mentally. Victims of abuse say broken bones heal faster than the emotional scars that last a lifetime. Abuse forms an invisible prison for the victim/survivor. How do you leave your abuser behind when they have taken up permanent residence in your mind? Even if you leave, the prison that they built for you remains intact inside your head.

As an advocate, I hear people say they just cannot stop replaying arguments or hearing their abuser belittle them constantly in their mind. These thoughts are intrusive and unwelcome, but they still persist. They tell me that they just want it to stop, but they are struggling to find a way to make it end. Sometimes it feels like they have not even gotten out of the relationship when they ended it months or even years ago. This is when working with an advocate can really help.

It seems insufficient to just tell them it takes time, but it really does. Advocates encourage everyone to remember that they can control those thoughts with the proper practice. Grounding techniques such as sitting up straight and putting your feet on the floor, using your five senses to observe and take in your surroundings, deep breathing, or even saying your name out loud while reassuring yourself that you are safe and okay often help when thoughts or memories become overwhelming. Learning techniques to stop these thoughts empower victims/survivors to fight back and take control.

Advocates recommend ending all contact with abusers if possible. In circumstances where there is a marriage to dissolve or child custody and visitation this is not possible, but limiting contact and enforcing strict boundaries will help alleviate some of the traumatization that comes from continued contact with their abuser. Victims/Survivors have to take control and fight back to ensure that they will not be re-victimized throughout this process. Unfortunately, abusive people will use court and even children to try to continue controlling their former victims. Crisis counseling and support groups help hold a safe place for victims/survivors to talk about these experience and share ideas on ways to cope and work through the feelings that come with being forced to continue contact.

If you or someone you know are suffering in an abusive relationship or have left an abusive relationship and are struggling with residual effects, Crisis Services of North Alabama provides free, confidential support. Trained advocates offer crisis counseling, support groups, court advocacy, and other services. Please contact an advocate locally at 256.574.5826 or at our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. Know that you are not alone, and you do not have to face rebuilding your life and letting go of the abuse alone. We are here to help.

-Christina Hays

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