Life after abuse brings many obstacles and challenges. Unfortunately, one of the most difficult things after abuse is dealing with the reactions of those you confide in. Whether you wish to confide in a few select people or you decide to confide in everyone you know, anticipating someone’s response can be terrifying.

It is impossible to know how exactly someone will respond when you tell them that you were abused by a former partner. After all, this isn’t like telling someone you’re transferring to a new school or quitting your job. This is telling someone that a person you loved, someone they most likely knew, hurt you in unimaginable and horrifying ways.

So many questions arise: will they want you to press charges, will they support you, will they even believe you? And perhaps the scariest one of all – will they judge you? For some unfathomable reason, many survivors of trauma face judgment and shame after coming forward about their abuse. It isn’t fair and it isn’t right. But that is the sad reality.

In my case, I was very lucky and most people believed me and supported me. Apart from a few individuals (who I no longer associate with), I really did not feel much judgment from the people I chose to confide in. But as I have learned this weekend, there are two very important people in my life who do judge me – my parents.

They don’t judge me for what happened with my abuser and they do understand, at least intellectually, that he was abusive. They have even used that word multiple times to describe him. However, it has been a full year now since I walked away and I am still struggling. And this is what they judge me for – that I have not bounced back and recovered like it was just a typical break-up. They cannot wrap their heads around the fact that abuse leaves scars; that it is just plain hard to be on the same campus as my abuser, to work in the same building as him, every single day; that I fear seeing him, not because he is a physical threat but because it feels like a knife going right through my heart.

I have tried to explain this to them many times and I tried again this weekend. Although they claim to “get it,” when I describe my pain to them they look at me like I am an alien with five heads. They tell me that “he hasn’t bothered you in a long time, he has clearly moved on” or that “You’ll find someone someday.” Those responses show just how profoundly they do not get it. Because this isn’t about him moving on, which they have no way of knowing anyway, and this isn’t about me “finding someone.” This is about the fact that someone I loved abused me, that he works three floors below me and I am surrounded by memories around every corner; that my body’s innate physiological response is to go into fight or flight mode if I see him, or if I just think about seeing into him. This isn’t about a break-up. This is about very real trauma. And it kills me that my own parents, the people who raised me, cannot validate the pain I am in, but rather,  they judge me for it.

And this is yet another reason why survivors don’t come forward. Because this kind of reaction and judgment from someone you love can hurt just as much as the actual abuse. It makes you once again question yourself, what you went through, and who you are. Those feelings of weakness and worthlessness resurface immediately. Within a few moments you begin to simultaneously wonder – was the abuser right and there is something wrong with me; did I deserve all the things he did to me; was he really even abusive since these people think I should have moved on by now?

The thing with trauma is that until you have experienced it yourself, you cannot begin to comprehend it. And that is okay. You don’t have to get it to be supportive. But judging someone because of what they went through or how they respond to it is never okay or acceptable. As survivors, the last thing we need and the last we deserve is to be judged. We have been through hell and we are still standing. We are warriors and we are fighting an invisible each and every day. Yes, we may still struggle, but we keep going. And that resilience, most definitely, should never be judged, looked down upon, or invalidated.

To quote the wise words of Lady Gaga, “Til you’re standing in my shoes, I don’t want to hear nothing from you… Til it happens to you, you don’t know how I feel.”

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24 thoughts on “Until it happens to you

  1. So true what you have said and well written to show the damage it does cause and the frustrations when someone does not understand how it still affects you tears down the line, even after you have left the abuser.
    There is always some sort of hidden scar that the abuser has left, like the memories, the fear, the trauma.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so sorry that your parents have been the support you’ve needed as you attempt to recover from your trauma. Have you tried sharing with them information about trauma, and PTSD? Not that they couldn’t look this up themselves, but perhaps the information might help. I do volunteer work with neglected and abused children and I know trauma training helped me a lot. Sometimes we might empathize, but knowledge helps us understand how deep someone’s pain might run.

    But perhaps there is even more going on. As a new parent I’m starting to get a glimpse of how closely my child’s pain is my own pain, and I know that the thought of my child suffering would feel more like my own failure than theirs. Perhaps they feel a great deal of guilt. Knowing how much pain you’re feeling makes them doubt the job they did. Should they have paid more attention to who you were dating? Should they have taken more interest? Were there signs along the way that in retrospect they feel like they should have seen and helped get you out of that situation. I am not saying that there is anything they realistically could have done, but it’s possible that their own internal anger at themselves driven by guilt is the reason for their lack of empathy. They are projecting…you being able to move past it, would also mean they can get past their own feelings of guilt. The longer you suffer, the longer they suffer, even if it doesn’t seem that way. Obviously I don’t know your parents or the complete nature of your interactions, but I’m just suggesting a possibility. As I’m sure you’ve learned, trauma ripples beyond the person who experienced it. While you have been able to rely on your parents before, perhaps the pain is too deep for them to be effective emotional support. They are too close to you perhaps. Sometimes people that are very emotionally attached to you can be ineffective support because how much pain they are experiencing as well. Perhaps counseling would even be helpful to them.

    Again I am just brainstorming because I am imagining how I would feel if my child experienced the kind of trauma you would feel. While I think I could be an effective supporter, it is also because I am both intellectually aware of what trauma does, and I think I’m a rather emotionally aware person as well, but not everybody is. The true villain here is ultimately your ex boyfriend. Your parents see you in a state of deep pain, but feel helpless and may be feeling their own guilt for not being able to prevent the pain your experiencing. For them it’s like your in a room suffering and they can’t get in, and they don’t even know what the room really looks likes to help give you useful advice through the door. The only thing they can suggest is for you to get out of the room, not understand how many obstacles are there between you and the door.

    I am so sorry, and I hope your parents come to understand and be the support you need.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Can I just say I am at awe with your response to this blogpost! Just by your response I can say you are such an understanding and empathetic person and I truly appreciate what you responded with. Especially when you say “trauma ripples beyond the person who experienced it” this really hit home. This catches the perspective I have known for a long time as a very close and dear person to me goes through her own trauma. It is exactly right that the victim is not the only one who suffers trauma it is also deeply felt by the people who truly care and love the victim. And you talking about moving on from a certain trauma for the parents to move on from their feelings of guilt is something I feel can happen. As long as they’re alive, parents are such beings that they punish themselves with this sense of guilt and countless, sleepless nights as if that will have their child get past their hardship but that also shows their immense love for their child. Just as their child struggles to get through their unfortunate trauma, this is not a known thing for parents to be able to get through immediately either as if there are some kind of manual instructions on “how to deal with child’s trauma” that they’ve known before becoming parents. Sometimes parents are incapable of processing and then reacting altogether with compassion and empathy when something traumatic happens. That is why enunciating the core of your pain only helps them be able to react with warm words and a heart of compassion, as well as bring them a step closer to coping with their own anger and guilt. Besides that, it is true that every experience and situation is so unique to itself as well as the people involved who come from different personalities and backgrounds that sometimes no possibility remains for someone to actually come around and understand and empathize with the person experiencing trauma. I just hope that situation does not befall anyone and I truly hope @speak766 that your parents can come to understand you and wait as long as it takes for you to grow from your past experience and come out stronger! “If you believe you can, then you are halfway there!” Much love to you both, @speak766, @Swarn Gill.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Thank you so much for your kind words, and sharing of wisdom here as well. I certainly cannot pretend to know what @speak766 has been though, but growing up with an alcoholic father has helped me investigate a lot how one person’s pain and addiction travels through families and how we deal with guilt and how those feelings differ between parent vs child, or even among different siblings. The reason for my father’s alcoholism was an undiagnosed traumatic event he experienced as a 16 year old, and he grew up in a time where there was especially very little psychological support expected for men, and everybody in his life very much had a “just get over it” mentality. I think older generations were simply not very sensitive to mental health issues, In a way, people did certainly learn to live with the pain, but really to great detriment. Fathers with undiagnosed PTSD from going off to war. Undiagnosed genetic mental illnesses. A lack of understanding of causes for addiction. There is a perception that people just got over their pain, but I would say they never did, people just didn’t talk about it. I think we’re fortunate to live in a time when we can talk about it, but it seems that the stigma still remains and this is something we are going to have to shed if we are truly concerned with the well-being of others. Because the truth is that it’s all physical. A sick liver and sick brain are no different except for the symptoms in which they manifest themselves. The same kind of compassion we would have for someone’s physical injuries we must have that same compassion for mental and emotional injuries as well. It seems that #Speak’s parents do care for her, but are simply ill equipped to know what to do, and are likely dealing with their own pain too, which they probably feel is less important than her’s, but they still need to understand it so they can help her in a way that’s meaningful. I hope they can find healing together.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. “The thing with trauma is that until you have experienced it yourself, you cannot begin to comprehend it. And that is okay.”

    This rings SO true. There is a language that we speak, like french, that only those of us that have truly LIVED through trauma fully get. I hear you. I get you.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Abusers are very manipulative. I think the hardest part is wondering when you see them, will they fuck with your head again? Will you be strong enough to turn away and not become involved in whatever stupid game they decide to play with your mind and emotions? Until you know you are strong enough, it will continue to be hard. And you can’t put a time stamp on that type of recovery. Your brain has been twisted into 1000 knots and it will take time to undo it. Stay strong.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I felt you were speaking my words for me. I wish there was a better word to describe the damage done to a person, than scars. For wounds that leave scars heal rather quickly, when abuse certainly does not. Whether that be emotional, mental or physical.

    You are a very brave person.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Very brave from you to share .I am afraid it is right if you don’t go through that yourself you will never completely understand but you can try.we must try.unfortunately a lot of people judge instead of trying to understand or simply shut up and support but it is only a way to exorcise a reality they don’t want to see and they refuse to acknowledged it could happen to everybody.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right – we must try. It’s the only way to be able to empathize and make progress as a society. Thank you for reading and commenting. Wish you all the best – speak766

      Like

  7. Reading this is eye opening… You’re right, you are a warrior. Strength to you. I haven’t suffered any strong trauma but I do know what it is to lack your parents’ support for your problems. As the only child of ‘old’ parents, I was always overprotected and everything good was expected of me. I was responsible for the family happiness. I could have turned out a fearful woman but I didn’t, although it has cost me most of my life to break away…only to have to take care of my mother, who has vascular dementia, now. Life is funny… Kudos to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Nobody can truly understand the pain you feel on the inside, it is unique to you. They can however hold space with you and love you through this. I hope you are healing and being kind to yourself ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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