For those who are familiar with domestic violence, “Safety Plan” are very important; they are plans to help someone leave an abusive situation without suffering physical harm. Recently, the importance of developing an "emotional safety plan," which outlines ways to move forward from a violent past, has also been recognized.
After leaving an abusive partner, starting over in a new environment can bring relief, but also can be stressful and disorienting. People go through a period of shock, and they need time to adjust. Moving forward is different for everyone, and it is a lifetime journey.
Consider the following as you leave -or after you leave- an abusive partner as ways to protect your emotional and mental well-being.
Learn About Emotional Safety
Emotional safety means feeling accepted, according to the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health. Some survivors report that unrelenting psychological attacks are more damaging than a physical beating.
Try finding a place where you can feel emotionally safe, such as talking to a trained advocate at a domestic violence shelter or nonprofit about what you’re going through. Often, they can validate what you’re feeling and help you return to a more calm emotional state.
Make Sure You Take Care of Your Personal Trauma
The physical and emotional after-effects of abuse can interfere with a person’s ability to make a plan and put it into action. For instance, if someone has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s hard to develop an emotional safety plan if they haven’t dealt with that first.
People affected by trauma may wonder what’s wrong with them when they experience difficulty making plans or even trying to process what someone is saying. But impaired decision-making can be a symptom of PTSD. Screening for PTSD will ensure that if medical and/or psychological help is needed, you can get it.
You can also join a domestic violence support group. Peer support is one if the most effective ways to help with recovery.
Understand Your Mixed Feelings
A family can be relieved to get away from abuse and still miss the abuser they’ve left. Some people are still very much in love with their abusive partner, and finding their strength and worth apart from their partner is an ongoing process.
The desire for an intact family can be a powerful obstacle to leaving and staying apart from an abusive partner. A lot of people stay in relationships because they don’t want to separate the other parent from the children.
If kids talk about missing the other parent, it can make feelings of guilt and regret even stronger. But just as the parent who leaves an abusive partner can grapple with mixed feelings, so can the children. Peer support groups can help families see those mixed feelings as normal, while reinforcing the value of a safe environment.
Try to more about the trauma you’ve endured. Educating yourself on different types of domestic violence as well as tactics abusers use, some of which may have been used against you, can help you reach a place of understanding. Furthermore, learning about triggers that can send you back into a state of panic or anxiety can help you prepare better to deal with them when they arise.
Reach Out for Support, If Needed
To maintain control, many abusers isolate their partner from family and friends. After leaving, a survivor may feel alone. All survivors’ stories are different—you may relish in this sense of independence or your new solo journey may mean you start to feel emotionally unstable. If needed, this is the time to ask for support.
If you live in the Amarillo area, an FSS advocate can point the way to resources for medical and legal needs, transportation and other needs. Consider making a list of trusted people, even if you’ve lost touch. Think about old friends, family members, faith leaders, teachers or mentors. You may not reach or reconnect with everyone on your list, but you may be surprised at the people who can help. Think of each connection as a way to rebuild a web of support.
For more information about domestic violence and how to get out of an abusive relationship, call our main office at 806-342-2500 to speak with a crisis advocate, or our 24 hour Crisis Hotline at 806-374-5433.