Recovering From Domestic Abuse: Moving On With Your Life

After leaving an abusive relationship or family situation, it can take a long time to start feeling like you’re back in control of your life. So, how exactly can you do this?

It’s practically unheard of for someone to come out the other side of an abusive situation without experiencing any negative feelings. There are so many mixed emotions involved in domestic abuse recovery, from anger and betrayal to relief, to sadness.

It’s also completely normal to feel grief from the loss of the relationship and you may struggle with your self-esteem, find it hard to trust again, or experience anxiety at the thought of attending social events. However, this doesn’t mean that you’ll be feeling like this for the rest of your life.

In this post, I am going to set out some tips for moving on with your life after experiencing domestic abuse. My past experience in working as a mental health nurse has brought me into contact with many victims of domestic abuse so it's important to help address the many issues victims can have.  Ultimately, once you’ve dealt with the practical side of things, including sorting out housing, childcare, and legal aid for domestic abuse, it’s all about doing what’s best for you. So, for 10 top tips on the healing process behind it all, read on…

What is Domestic Abuse?


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Domestic abuse takes many forms and can happen to any person of any gender as well as age, background, sexuality, religion or ethnicity. More specifically, Refuge, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, describes it as ‘a pattern of behaviour on the part of the abuser designed to control his/her partner’.

Domestic abuse isn’t just restricted to relationships, and can also occur within family homes. Some of the types of abuse you 
may come across include:

  • Emotional and psychological abuse: such as threats, manipulation, verbal abuse and ‘gas lighting’.
  • Physical abuse: such as hitting, kicking, spitting, slapping, restraining, pinching and throwing objects.
  • Sexual abuse: this does not have to involve physical force (although it can). It is also sexual abuse if someone manipulates, guilts or coerces you into doing something you don’t want to do.
  • Financial abuse: controlling your access to money, for example, taking your wages, forcing or pressuring you to get into debt, making you stop work or only allowing you a small ‘pocket money’ or an ‘allowance’.
  • Tech abuse: such as looking through your phone, sending you abusive messages, tracking your devices or sharing images of you online without your consent.
  • Cultural abuse: this can include forced marriage or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and usually occurs in households where there is a strong cultural urge to control based on gender. 

Abusive behaviours, such as assault, battery, sexual assault or revenge porn, are considered criminal offences in the UK. Now, coercive control is also listed amongst these crimes; when an abuser uses a pattern of behaviour over a period of time to control the victim. These actions may include many of the examples we’ve listed above, as well as depriving a person of food, water, sleep and hospital care, amongst other things.

Whatever behaviours your abuser used, remember that domestic abuse is never the victim’s fault.

Life After Domestic Abuse: What are the Lasting Effects?

  • Domestic abuse can have a wide range of consequences for the survivor, including mental, emotional, physical, social and financial effects. If you have left an abusive situation, it is completely normal to be experiencing any of the following (this is not an exhaustive list, everyone experiences domestic abuse differently):
  • Feelings of fear for your personal safety and the safety of your children.
  • Emotional trauma, such as loss of confidence, embarrassment, shame and guilt.
  • A limited social circle from becoming isolated from friends and family.
  • Long term social challenges, for example, if you fell out with friends or family.
  • Difficulties at work, such as problems with performance, time keeping, organisation and concentration.
  • Mental health problems, such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, psychosis, self-harm and suicidal feelings.
  • Financial issues, such as a reduced income and earning capacity, depleted savings, debt, difficulties finding work or coping with a job, and difficulties managing your own finances.
  • Substance abuse, including alcohol and drug misuse and addiction.
  • Physical health problems, such as chronic illness, stress and sexually transmitted diseases.

10 Top Tips for Moving on with Your Life After Domestic Abuse


domestic abuse

With all this in mind, it’s important that a survivor of domestic abuse takes care of their mental health to help them move on. Some tips to do just that include:

1. Seek Professional Help

First and foremost, if you are experiencing mental health issues such as low moods, panic attacks and feelings of worthlessness, it is important to seek professional advice. Your GP can provide advice about whether counselling or therapy might be right for you and refer you to a counsellor or give you the information you need to self-refer. They can also prescribe medication for conditions such as depression and anxiety.

If you’re in touch with any charities or domestic abuse organisations, they may also be able to advise you or provide you with counselling. If you would prefer, paying for private counselling is also effective and can be faster than waiting for counselling on the NHS; however, going private can be very expensive.

2. Celebrate Your Strength

Gathering the courage and strength to leave an abusive relationship is an incredible thing to do, and something to be extremely proud of. Although you may not feel particularly strong at the moment, there’ll be many more successes to celebrate down the line as you retake your independence.

Try keeping a journal to write down your thoughts, feelings and steps you’ve taken that you’re particularly proud of. This way, you can look back on them in the future and see how far you’ve come.

3. Give it Time

Everyone responds to challenging situations differently, and it can take a long time to recover from trauma. The saying ‘time heals all wounds’ is completely true when it comes to domestic abuse recovery.

The important thing to remember is not to push yourself. There is no ‘right’ way to recover and if you don’t feel okay at the moment, that is fine; just remember to take care of yourself and time will take care of the rest.

4. Practice Making Choices

One of the lasting effects for many people who have gone through domestic abuse is difficulty making decisions. Domestic abusers tend to control their victims by taking away their independence and stopping them from making their own decisions. Often, they will combine this with gaslighting to convince the abused person that they make bad choices and cannot be trusted or allowed to think independently.

Once you have left that abusive relationship, it can be very difficult to shake that mindset and feel confident about your own choices. You may feel paralysed, panicky or uncertain when faced with more than one option. You may also rely heavily on family or friends to help you make decisions.

However, one part of recovery is learning to make your own choices again so you can retake control of your life. Start by making small conscious choices, such as deciding what you want to wear, watch on tv, or eat for dinner. Move on to bigger decisions – decide where you and your family go out for dinner, go shopping alone and splash out on a new outfit, or choose your children’s birthday presents by yourself. Eventually, you can work up to the biggest decisions, such as managing your own finances or renting or buying a new home.

5. Rebuild your Support Network

friends



Some people who experience abuse are often forced or coerced into isolating themselves from their friends and family. Now you’re out of the abusive situation, your support network is more vital than ever to provide emotional support and help you get back on your feet.

Although it’s normal to feel anxious about reaching out, it’s highly unlikely that your loved ones will be angry or disappointed with you, as you might think. They are more likely to be relieved and thrilled that you have returned to them.

Making new acquaintances and friends is also a great way to help you become more confident in social situations. Chat to your neighbours or join a class. You don’t have to open up too much or get too close to new people if it makes you uncomfortable; just some casual socialisation could do wonders for your mental health.

6. Take Part in your Community

This is a great tip if you’re not ready to return to work. When you feel up to it, think about involving yourself in your local community, for example, you could:

  • Volunteer in a charity shop
  • Volunteer for a local charity, such as working at a community centre or being a friend to an elderly person
  • Join a community garden club

Not only are these great social activities, taking part in your community can help build your confidence, and give you the chance to help others. It’ll also look great on your CV for when you do decide to return to the workplace.

7. Explore New Hobbies

When you’re in an abusive relationship, it’s very common to lose touch with your hobbies and interests. This is because the abuser often forbids certain activities, or they will belittle their partner’s interests and make them feel like they’re not worth doing. It is also common for people in abusive relationships to have mental health issues such as depression, which can cause them to lose interest in things they previously enjoyed.

Whatever reason you have for losing touch with your hobbies, now is the perfect time to start them back up and explore some new ones. Whether you want to try knitting, running, reading or gaming, choosing to do things that interest you is a great way to take back control of your life and reconnect with yourself.

8. Build Healthy Habits

Concentrating on eating healthily and exercising is great for building routine and encouraging your body and mind’s recovery. Practising mindfulness and relaxation techniques can also be helpful at relieving stress and helping you cope with the aftereffects of escaping an abusive situation.

9. Let Yourself Have Bad Days

Some days, you’ll probably feel like you have all the motivation in the world to socialise, work and take part in your hobbies. Other days, you may want to do nothing but stay at home and not see anyone. This will no doubt be a highly emotional time, so this is all completely normal.

The important thing to remember is to try not to feel guilty or bad about yourself for feeling this way. Just take some self-care time to wherever possible and remember that tomorrow is another day.

10. Make Sure You Get Help

When you are ready to leave an abusive person, it is absolutely vital to take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your children. If you’re worried about the abusive person approaching you or threatening your safety, you should contact a domestic violence organisation for help. Some free helplines for confidential advice include:

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0808 2000 247
Galop, for LGBTQ people – 0800 999 5428
Men’s Advice Line – 0808 801 0327
In an emergency, call 999

A domestic violence solicitor should also be contacted to take out an injunction or non-molestation order to stop the abuser from coming near you. They can also provide advice about getting an occupation order, which can force the abuser to leave your home even if you live there together. If the abuser breaches either type of order, you can call the police to get them arrested.

Are you Currently Experiencing Domestic Abuse?

As I’ve covered, recovering from domestic abuse and moving on with your life takes time. So, more than anything, remember to take care of yourself and try not to rush anything.

Ensure your protections are in place, seek professional help, dive into your hobbies, build healthy habits, and reconnect with your friends and family. Eventually, you’ll look back on this time from a place of peace and contentment, and marvel out how far you’ve come.

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