Recognising abuse and surviving in an abusive relationship take strength…

The abuse can be terrifying, life-threatening and almost constant. Or it can ebb and flow, with no violence for long periods. It’s often the subtler forms of abuse that inflict serious, persistent damage while making it hard for the victim to see the situation clearly.

For me, living in constant fear of my husband’s anger and being subjected to his degrading tirades for years chipped away at my independence and sense of self-worth. I walked away from that relationship a shell of the person I was when I went into it, but it took me a long time to realise the toll that his behaviour was taking on me.

Telling others about the abuse takes strength

Talking to family, friends, counsellors and, later, the police, I would often find myself struggling to find the words to convey an adequate picture of the situation.

Then there is the just-as-serious issue of being believed and supported by those you choose to tell. Sometimes people don’t believe you. Sometimes they have difficulty truly understanding what you are trying to tell them. It wasn’t until I spoke to a professional counsellor that I was met with understanding.

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Leaving and putting the pieces of your life back together takes strength

I had to take an extended leave from the university course I had started because I was depressed and unable to complete the work. When I finally left my husband for good, my self-confidence was so destroyed that I was too scared to apply for any jobs other than that of a waitress at a restaurant. It has taken me years to get my professional life back on track.

Victims are often with their abusers for long periods of time. They marry them, become financially intertwined with them, have children with them. There are many reasons people find it difficult to leave. The bottom line is, it takes strength to pull yourself away and start over.

It takes strength to pull yourself away and start over

I also never imagined I would be in an abusive relationship

Being strong – with excellent instincts and loyalty and smarts – does not inoculate a person against abuse. It doesn’t prevent her from entering into a relationship with an abuser. Abuse often doesn’t manifest itself early on – only later, when you’re in deep and behind closed doors. The really ugly side of my husband’s abuse only came out after we married, following three years of dating.

Abuse comes in many forms. It is visited on the poor and the rich, the least educated and the most, people with a strong and deep network of friends and family and those without a support structure. And an abusive nature is certainly not something most colleagues are able to spot in a professional setting, especially if they are blinded by a stellar résumé and background.

Article by Colbie Holdernes, first published on ‘Washington Post’. Holderness was the first wife of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter.

Author: ANA Newswire and A4W Staff