Escaping a domestic violence situation is a monumental step toward a better, healthier life, but it’s hardly the last step a survivor will take. Violence can have long-lasting effects on a survivor and affect her daily life even after the abuser is no longer in the picture.Just like physical wounds, psychological and emotional wounds need to be taken care of or they cannot heal. Counseling and support groups can play a part in this healing process. Yvette Lozano, director of intervention and emergency services with the nonprofit Peace Over Violence says she sees abuse survivors seek out counseling most often after they leave the relationship and are in a safe place, with their children safe as well.
“What I’ve noticed is many women have post-traumatic stress disorder,” says Lozano. The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as anxiety that develops in people after extremely traumatic events, such as abuse, combat, an accident or a natural disaster. Memories of the trauma can trigger extreme fear to a point where it almost immobilizes the survivor. There can also be nightmares, concentration problems, irritability, guilt and depression.
Steps After Escaping Violence“Many women blame themselves. The abuser has told them it was their fault and survivors tend to believe that,” says Lozano. To regain self-esteem, survivors should seek out support groups where others have been through similar circumstances and can encourage each other as they begin anew. These three steps are also important to take:
- Stop blaming yourself. It wasn’t your fault that you were in an abusive relationship, no matter how long you stayed. You have the power to make healthy decisions going forward.
- Nix the word “victim.” You are a survivor. Your life is in your control now.
- Stop the cycle of abuse. Make sure your children receive counseling to help them learn healthy ways to deal with anger in the future.