Love never abuses, no matter how many times you have been told that it does

If you are reading this, then I know you must be at a painful place in your life. If you are reading this, then I know you must be at a painful place in your life. This article is intended to support you wherever you are in your heart and in your decision-making, and to help you build a strong safety net so that you may build a path to a better and more secure place, when you are ready and able.

Living with abuse is painful and confusing. You may hope that things will change. You may be afraid to leave for many reasons. You may wish that you could confide in someone but feel that you can’t. You may feel shame. You may be trapped financially. You may not want to split up your family. You may love your abuser so much that you are unable to see that they are never going to change. Let me tell you something that I think you already know: Love never abuses, no matter how many times you have been told that it does.

No one can understand what you are going through because they are not you. Every abusive relationship, and every abuser, is different. The intricate ties we have to those who mistreat us are sometimes inexplicable and can be very difficult to break. No matter how much pain the abuse causes, we may still feel unable to walk away, until one day we reach the point where both our fear and our courage become bigger than what we have falsely believed to be love.

1. If you are in it right now, I want you to know that there is hope. If you are stuck at this moment but know that you will soon, or eventually, get out – please know that there are some very important things you can do right now, in this uncomfortable and scary moment of your life, to help yourself (and your children, if you have them).

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

2. If you are unable to tell someone you love, then tell someone you don’t know. Go to a counsellor, a crisis organisation, or even an acquaintance, and please tell them what you’re experiencing. The pain of staying silent about abuse is unbearable. Saying the words aloud can be an important first step toward acceptance and freedom.

3. See a doctor every time you are hurt. Even if you think you will never leave or press charges, having a medical record of your injuries could one day be the thing that will prove the abuse happened and keep you safe moving forward.

4. Take pictures of injuries, abusive notes, or broken objects in your home. Store these files in a safe place online so that they cannot be destroyed.

5. Similarly, save or screenshot abusive texts, emails, or any other electronic communications that demonstrate your abuser’s behaviour. Back them up into online storage as well.

6. Protect your email and social media accounts by changing your password frequently and checking regularly to see which devices are logged into your accounts. Scan your computer and phone for spyware or key-logging software. Make sure that you are not being monitored.

7. See a therapist who is experienced in assisting victims of abuse. They will be able to help you plan a safe exit while taking care of your emotions. There is often free counselling available for people experiencing abuse.

While this is a scary and heart-breaking moment in your life, there is a beautiful life beyond your current situation

8. Make safety calls. If you are in an escalating situation or argument, secretly dial a trusted friend’s number. Put your phone down and allow them to hear what is going on so that they can call police if necessary. If the call goes to voice mail, there will at least be recorded evidence of the incident. These kinds of third party witness records can make a significant difference if you press charges.

9. Keep a journal, using detailed dates, times and factual descriptions of the abuse. This may seem tedious when you are in the midst of it, but one day it may save you or your children from further abuse. If possible, do this electronically and back it up online.

10. Call victim’s support organisations for help and advice. These places not only provide crisis support, but they can offer a compassionate ear when you don’t know who to trust. They may be the one kind voice you hear on a hard day, or they may provide you with a tip that saves or changes your life. They will allow you to be anonymous if you prefer not to give them details.

11. Never, ever leave without a safety plan in place and without ensuring that trusted people know when and how you plan to escape. If you can, plan to have a soft place to fall. Stay with a friend at a hotel for the first few days if possible. Never let your abuser know where you’re going. The first few weeks after you leave can be the most dangerous. Plan to have zero contact in that time.

12. If you have children, try to research and prepare ahead of time for any court orders you may need to obtain upon leaving. If you will need to facilitate parental visitation before you get orders in place, do it only with a third-party present in a safe location.

Finding the courage and the resources to leave abuse takes a tremendous amount of courage and an equal amount of planning. When you are in the thick of it, you may not be able to see a clear path out, but there are people who will help you, if you reach out. The tips above are intended to shine some light on your exit path, and to prepare you for an easier transition.

I wish I could tell you that there’s a magical way to immediate reprieve. The truth is that it can take years to leave, and it can take years to heal. I can promise you, though, that while this is a scary and heart-breaking moment in your life, there is a beautiful life beyond your current situation. You will get through this, and your future will be brighter.

Above all else, please remember this: the shame of abuse NEVER belongs to the victim. It ALWAYS belongs solely to the abuser. Don’t be afraid to speak up and seek help and support.

You are not alone.