People in abusive relationships tend to do a lot of introspection. They wonder why it has happened to them, what they have done to attract this poor treatment from someone they love or who says they love them. It can be a very confusing time for a victim of domestic violence. When you experience domestic, it makes you look at yourself differently and you even question yourself, wondering whether if it’s something about you that has attracted the abuser or made you a victim.
It is not your fault, the fault lies solely with the abuser because regardless of what you’re lacking as an individual (no one is perfect), it gives no one the right to abuse you. Abusers often look for weaknesses in their victims and use those weaknesses to control the victim. However, someone who loves you and who is a good caring person, will never take your weaknesses and use it against you. People who love and support you will find ways to help you develop those weaknesses into strengths, or they will give you constructive criticism, never with the intention to hurt you.
There is nothing good about being in a domestic violence situation, however, with every tough situation or challenge you face, there is always an opportunity for growth. There’s an opportunity for this experience to make you a stronger person, and it makes you look at yourself; your needs, your wants, your ambitions. As you’re trying to escape the abusive relationship, you constantly think about what a better life would look like and the kind of person you could be in that life.
In an article by a psychiatrist, Abigail Brenner M.D., published on Psychology Today she identifies ways that you can learn to stand up for yourself, a skill that is required by all people facing domestic violence.
Here’s how you can use the challenge of domestic violence to create a better, improved version of you:
- Ask yourself why you’re staying
Have you ever stood up to your abuser and told him what you think about his treatment of you? What has prevented you from standing up for yourself? Look back into your past, what is it about your past that has influenced you in becoming the kind of person that people walk over. Did your parents never encourage confrontation? Were you always criticised by family, friends or teachers? Have these criticisms negatively impacted the way you view yourself? These are important questions to ask. Once you’re able to identify what it is about your past or upbringing that has made you not voice your concerns or set boundaries or speak-up when you’re unhappy, then you can start to put suitable measures in place to address them.
- Identify your needs.
It sounds simple enough, but sadly a lot of people have been working so hard at pleasing others and doing what others want that they do not know what they need, or makes them happy. Once you know what you need, you’ll know which activities to say no to that don’t support your needs.
- Tell others what you need.
Be clear about what is acceptable to you and what isn’t. Most importantly, “be very vocal about what is unacceptable to you, [because] if you don’t let others know how you feel they may misread a situation, misunderstand what you are thinking/feeling, or just do what they want to do anyway.” According to Brenner, “Silence from you may signal complicity. Your message may be that if you don’t object it’s okay for others to do things their way.”
For more advice on how to stand up for yourself, read Brenner’s full article here.