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Surviving Abuse, Empowering Yourself Against Your Abuser, by Melissa Littles
As a survivor and advocate against domestic abuse, I, like so many others tend to try to place much focus on bringing awareness to the symptoms of an abusive relationship, the steps necessary to find a way out, and the need for support and resources to those planning their escape. I have found, through my own personal experience that in addition, we need to bring awareness to life post-abuse, and the struggles many survivors continue to face.
Although it is so important for victims of abuse to know there is life after abuse, I believe it is also important for them to know, and to be prepared for the many ways their abusers may try and continue their warped vision of control, even after their victim has escaped the relationship.
There are many steps in removing yourself from an abuser's control. First you have to make the decision to get out. As all survivors of abuse know, making the decision to leave is only as good as your commitment to follow through with your decision. An abuser will use every opportunity to convince you to stay, including using guilt to keep you in the relationship, false and empty promises of change, threats of harming themselves if you leave, and of course, they will use physical, emotional and sexual power to try and intimidate you into remaining in the relationship. All of these factors can easily prove too overwhelming to a victim of abuse, thereby defeating their decision to finally escape the relationship. This is why a support system is so crucial to victims who are in the process of escaping their abuser. They not only need to be aware of the tactics their abuser will use to maintain their control, victims also need the support of family, friends and community resources to reinforce their commitment in leaving the relationship, and they need the support to remain strong enough to stand by their decision, regardless of what their abuser continues to bring to the mix.
Many survivors of domestic abuse will feel a sense of empowerment and victory at different times throughout the process of getting out of an abusive relationship, however, the simplest of setbacks can in some cases prove devastating to the ego of a victim, who may be using all the strength they have to deal with the daily struggles of keeping their commitment to get out of the relationship. If getting out of an abusive relationship were as easy as flipping an "over" switch, this would not be a necessary topic. Truth be told, it can take months, sometimes years if custody or divorce is an issue, for a victim to be legally free from her abuser. A victim of abuse needs to learn the coping skills to deal with all the circumstances that can arise during what can be a lengthy process of ending a relationship.
Empowerment through discouraging circumstances...
In the journey of removing yourself from an abuser's power, it is important to find ways to turn your abuser's negatives into your own positives.
One of the easiest ways of accomplishing this is to remember, your abuser is the problem, not you. The healing process for victims of abuse is not an instant process, which is itself a detrimental problem during the process of ending a relationship. It's as if we need the strength we gain though becoming a survivor of domestic abuse before we are actually survivors. We need that strength and power during the fight for freedom, not after the battle has been won, but we gain that same strength and power by fighting the fight and staying the course until the victory. Along the way, we have to remember that each step in the battle is a victory. Each day we get closer to the end of the fight, is another achievement we can be proud of.
Power and control is like oxygen to an abuser. Without it they have nothing. As they begin to lose it they will frantically fight to get it back. For each victory during the process of leaving an abusive relationship, a victim of abuse needs to understand that their abuser will fight harder, more frantically to maintain that which they cannot live without.....power and control. Instead of becoming frustrated by the increased fight from the abuser, victims need to view this as another victory. For each time their abuser feels the need to increase their battle against their victim, it is a sure sign that the abuser is losing the battle...suffocating without their power and control. Survivors of abuse need to use each step in getting out of an abusive relationship as a victory in which they can empower themselves and ready themselves for the next battle to come.
It is perfectly normal to feel discouraged, exhausted, or even a sense of failure during the process of ending an abusive relationship. The key is staying focused on the end result. Many survivors are not aware that when the battle seems won, in many cases, the threat of physical violence may be over, but an abuser will not take defeat lightly and will find other ways of inflicting what they perceive as power and control over their victims. This is the most important time after the end of an abusive relationship for survivors to rely on their empowerment against their abuser. This is the time to remain focused and dedicated to life apart from abuse.
For my personal experience, I was able to get a conviction against my abuser. It took two years and multiple charges and violations of a permanent protective order, but I did get a conviction. Most would say, end of story? Not even. My abuser is a classic narcissist. Regardless of how many times his own words and his own actions bring negative responses, even legal ramifications to his life, he is not logical enough to see he brings his own demise. He is so consumed with revenge for me standing up to him and following through with my commitment that he has for two years constantly sought out ways to try and destroy me, my reputation, the reputation of my family and even my innocent children. The Internet has proven to be his playground and using false identities and multiple websites to defame my character has proven to be his method of revenge. As someone who has had to deal with his constant, continual attacks for years now, it would be very easy to become discouraged and feel defeated by his actions. But through becoming a survivor of abuse, I have learned to use his negatives to empower me. I have learned that for each time he has a need to publicly try and distract from the truth which is his own lack of character, it is proof positive of how powerless he is over me....and more importantly powerless over even himself. For anyone who feels compelled to continue a pattern of destructive behavior which has resulted in nothing but negative results in their own lives......is undoubtedly a person who has not learned or grown or accepted any responsibility for their own mistakes or bad behaviors.
I remember the first time I saw some of the things he was putting out on the Internet about me. I felt upset for about...30 seconds. That's when I knew, without a doubt, his reign over me was so totally over. I instantly had the desire to copy and paste his own words against me and use them in one of my domestic violence blogs. One of my friends asked me if it bothered me that he was slandering me all over the Internet, and why would I use all the things he was saying in one of my own blogs, and for the first time it really hit me....it didn't matter what he said about me, if I could find a way to empower myself and use his negatives as a positive. And his negatives have proven to be a positive way for me to continue to reach out to women in abusive relationships. Nothing matters more than that. Because of his own negativity toward me, I have the opportunity to use my own experiences to reach out to women, and have as a result actually had three women he has tried to scam in the past two years contact me to thank me for my words. In simply looking him up on Google due to their own red flags, his own words have led them to me. His own negativity has led his future victims to the truth about his criminal history and lack of character and abusive nature. Not one person has had a bit of interest in what he has said about me...and all have said his own words are proof positive about who he really is.
As a legal side note, survivors of abusive relationships can also take comfort in the fact that many abusers who continue to engage in verbal attacks against their victims will answer legally for their actions. I was not even aware that my abusers actions fell under the terms of a violation of the permanent protective order under the harassment and interference clause. When the District Attorney's office advised me that some of his most recent actions were cause for him to be brought up on additional charges, and that by his own words in writing against me he had violated the terms of his probation and would be facing more charges, once again I knew that my continued commitment to remain positive despite his negativity is the way I will continue to live.
For all who have survived an abusive relationship only to be met with continual attacks on another level from their abusers, you are not alone, but you are the victor. Your abuser's need to continue seeking a way to defeat you is a sure sign he is drowning. Drowning in his own misery, his own self defeat....he has no oxygen, no power no control. As long as you continue to find a way to empower yourself against his negativity, he will continue to suffocate and you will continue to soak up all that fresh air. Raise your head to the sun, feel the warmth of those who love you, support you and know your truth.
If you are being abused or know someone being abused, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or call your local Department of Women and Children’s Family Services. There are resources available to victims of domestic violence and professionals who can help you or a loved one with information needed to implement a plan to get out safely.