Domestic abuse will take away your self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, no matter how confidence, strong or bubbly you once were, that will be stripped away from you.
Society believes that the complex cycle is one to easily leave, easily be free from and to easily leave behind, only victims who are now thriving will understand how difficult life after domestic abuse really is.
It takes time to build back up your confidence, it doesn’t happen over night but over a period of time. The most difficult thing is to learn to trust again but the most important is to learn to trust yourself by going with your gut instinct.
Life for a perpetrator will continue, with very little change, however, a victims life will change completely.
Many victims will find themselves, homeless and financially deprived because of the abuse the have endured, it takes time to rebuild these things again and, it’s not as easy as people think.
For me, I lost my job as a Legal Secretary/Office Manager; you feel a failure for being sacked, like everything you worked so very hard for, just taken away from you in the blink of an eye and no matter how much you beg your boss for a second chance and explain what you are suffering at home, it just falls on deaf ears. No one wants to listen. But how does that help victims become survivors?
I found myself part of the benefit system and as a single mum, difficult to get back into the workplace, no matter how hard I tried, I just could not get myself out of this rut I was stuck inside. Yes, I was signing on at the job centre and yes, I was part of the work programme but it didn’t make it any easier. When I was first part of the work programme I had to attend workshops, where we would be in a room full of other people and a speaker guiding us through how the work programme would be supporting us in our efforts to finding work.
For me, getting back into employment was a personal achievement, something I wanted to do for myself but also to show my daughter that for what we want in life, we have to work and achieve it.
Sitting in a room full of strangers, for some, sounds like no big deal but when you have had every ounce of your self-esteem, confidence and worth crushed from you, it’s difficult. You try not to make eye contact with anyone of the opposite sex because all the accusations of having affairs and cheating come flooding back to you, you try not to wear an outfit that will “draw attention to you” because if you do, it’s only because you want the opposite sex to look at you, you feel worthless and useless at this point because, after all, this is what domestic abuse has told you.
You are encouraged to speak out during the workshop because you don’t want to be the only one that doesn’t but something stops you because whatever you say is stupid and who will listen to you anyway? Always being told how fat, stupid, ugly, useless and pathetic you are, raises its head at awkward times, that verbal abuse attacking your mind, never goes away.
Psychological abuse doesn’t disappear or fade over time, it’s always a part of you, always stored neatly at the back of your mind, subconsciously. It doesn’t matter how long you have been out of the relationship, those words will still come back to haunt you.
Sitting with an advisor, someone who wants to help you back into work doesn’t quite sink in straightaway; someone wants to actually help and support you back into work but why? Living with someone who is supposed to love you and constantly being told, over and over, how useless, thick, worthless and no good you are has a huge impact on you, it drips inside your mind like a dripping tap and it’s difficult to get rid of those thoughts, it takes time.
You still feel that fear inside you, your heart beating hard and fast like a drum, hoping you’re not coming across as flirting, hope you’re not making too much eye contact and hoping what you are saying doesn’t make you sound stupid. You sort of feel like that vulnerable victim over again, but you know it’s not your perpetrator you are talking too.
All these different jobs are being showed to you on the screen and you are being asked to “sell yourself” and “what are your skills”, when suddenly you can’t think of anything you are actually good at but when probed by the advisor, hold on a minute actually yeah, I can do that. But, you’ve never actually sat down and thought about you, you have thought what your skills are, what you are good at and what your aims are because for so long you have been brainwashed into thinking you are nothing with nothing to offer.
Scanning through the different jobs you are being shown, so many thoughts run through your mind; no, I can’t do that, I’m not pretty enough, I can’t do that job its face to face work, I can’t do that because I’m think, I can’t work there it’s a male environment and, although you are thinking those things it’s not because you can’t actually do the job, it’s because you have been mentally brainwashed into thinking and believing those things.
You know if you don’t attend the workshops, if you’re not actively seeking work and if you don’t find a job soon, your benefit payments will stop, so you will become financially controlled again but if you just take on the first job that is offered to you and you don’t stay in employment you will feel like the failure that you were led to believe you are and you feel like your perpetrator was right all along.
Each thriving survivor is unique and individual with a healing process that will start at varying times; what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Thriving survivors need nurturing, need support and aftercare. They have to learn to have a relationship with themselves first, get to know who they are again and where they want to be, this takes time. Self confidence, self-esteem and self-worth needs to be raised in preparation of attending work shops and finding jobs because with it, thriving survivors will feel like they aren’t moving forward and that their perpetrator was right all along.
It’s not that thriving survivors don’t want to work because they do, it gives them freedom, sense of achievement and a control over their own life psychologically and financially, but they need guidance every single step of the way because that verbal abuse attacking your mind, never goes away. Psychological abuse is a barrier, preventing thriving survivors to move forward in their life and without the right support and aftercare will find this a challenge.
Going back to work is a huge step and not one that should be taken lightly. It’s about guidance so thriving survivors can see survival at the end of that tunnel.