In order to overcome the pain, victims of domestic violence need to move from hurting, to healing, to eventually helping.

Some persons have ended the relationship with their abuser and have safety measures in place. But months or years later, they are still “stuck” in their feelings. They are finding it hard to move on with their lives.

So how can you get past the hurt? These six steps can help – as you read through the steps, we encourage you to fill in the spaces after each of the steps:

1. First of all, you need to realize that you were treated abusively — what happened to you was not normal. Often persons drift into abusive situations, not realizing that the relationship is heading in the wrong direction. Over time outrageous actions begin to seem normal. Only later do they realize how bad it really was.

The ways I was mistreated: _______________________________________________

2. Now, try to pinpoint the feelings you are having right now:

  • Anger
  • Shame
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Several of the above

Don’t judge your feelings and don’t try shove them out of your awareness. Just accept them for what they are.

The feelings I’m experiencing right now: ____________________________________________

3. Next you need to reach the point of acceptance. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t your fault, you didn’t deserve it, and there’s no point in heaping blame on yourself.

How I can come to accept what happened: ________________________________________

4. Now you’re at the point of understanding. For many couples, the cycle of abuse begins with a period of increasing tension, then violence, and finally the “honeymoon phase” when your abuser apologizes and says it will never happen again. So ask yourself these questions:

  • What were the warning signs of trouble in your relationship?
  • How did you react in those situations?
  • How did the abuse cycle go for you?

The phases in my abuse cycle: ______________________________________

5. Now it’s time to learn from any missteps you may have made, and learn what you need to learn so you don’t suffer the same experience again:

  • Does the relationship you had with your abuser remind you of any previous relationships or experiences in early life?
  • Looking back, what were the early warning signs you missed or accepted as “normal”?
  • What would you do differently if you knew then what you know now?
  • How can you redraw the lines (“boundaries”) for healthy relationships?
  • How can you raise the bar for actions by others that you are not willing to tolerate?
  • How can you speak more directly and more confidently about your needs and wants?

Lessons I’ve learned about myself and about others: _______________________________________

6. Talk about your journey with a trusted friend. Consider getting help from a qualified counselor.

Someone I can talk to about what I’ve experienced: __________________________________________

Getting “unstuck” is not just a matter of walking away or ignoring what happened to you. It’s a matter of learning from your experience, getting a new perspective on relationships, and then moving on.

Partners in Prevention

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