I remember a time when abuse seemed like something which I only saw on TV or heard about on the news. Now I have that label: “abuse victim”. I know people talk about it, whispering about the fact that I was punched repeatedly by my ex-boyfriend in a bar. I never knew that it would be something I’d have to deal with or how difficult it would be to deal with. Looking back on it, I can see clearly defined stages to my recovery.
Shock: The initial stage is complete, utter and devastating shock. It’s almost impossible to fathom how someone so close to you could cause you such complete and utter pain and humiliation. At this point, it almost feels like you weren’t the victim. Like you only watched the whole thing happen. You can feel the bruising and swelling on your face and you can see the horrified looks of those around you but somehow the gravity of the situation it doesn’t sink in.
Dependency: There’s no way of describing the emptiness you feel the following morning, waking up and realising what’s happened, still being able to feel the pain on your face. You become dependent on everyone around you, feeling a need to tell everyone around you what happened. You hope that someone will be able to tell you something which will make it all go away even though you don’t know exactly what that is.
Humiliation: As the realisation of your situation sinks in, you suddenly become aware of everyone who knows about it. You can’t make eye contact with anyone who witnessed the event because you know they’re all pitying you. It becomes harder and harder to talk about, least of all to tell new people. You’re scared that people see you as weak all of a sudden. You become someone who was physically beaten in public, that’s your identifier and it’s cripplingly humiliating.
Loss of confidence: Why me? Is it because I’m not pretty enough? Is it because I broke up with you? Why don’t you respect me? You feel more down than ever before. Everything you thought you had going for you suddenly seems to disappear and you become a shell of your former self. You convince yourself that if you were different, it wouldn’t have happened.
Anger: It’s a rage like no other, a stronger hate than you’ve ever felt before. You want the abuser to feel your pain, to understand that you’ve never felt lower or worse about yourself. It’s a fiery ball of rage deep inside you that you’d never been aware of before. You don’t know how to release it or how to deal with it. All you know is that, perhaps for the first time in your life, you physically hate someone.
Temptation: How is he? Does he feel remorse? Does he ever talk about me? It’s so tempting to ask someone these questions. Whilst part of you knows that you don’t want anything to do with him, another part of you can’t resist the temptation. You ask someone even though you know they will never be able to give you the response you want, because actually no response would make you feel better. Then, you feel all the worse because you gave in to the temptation and it shows that part of you still cares, as much as you don’t want to.
Acceptance: This stage can only be reached with time. As much as it pains you and will continue to affect you most likely for the rest of your life, you manage to reach a stage where you can live with what’s happened. It may still be difficult to talk about or to see the abuser but you at least realise that you can take strength from it, that maybe it was supposed to happen so that you could learn from it and grow as a person.
Forgiveness: The final, and perhaps most difficult, stage. As much as you want to forgive, it is almost impossible for a very long time. You don’t have to like the abuser or want to build any kind of relationship with them, but it’s important to finally be able to forgive them in order to fully come to terms with your situation. As long as it may take, eventually you will reach the forgiveness stage and only then can you say that you have to come to terms with your abuse and trust me, once you can say that, you are a remarkably strong person. Never give up.