Anyone who has been in an abusive relationship and has lived to tell the tale is a survivor. This includes those who are currently in such a relationship and either working their way out or making preparations to do so. One large obstacle to ending and healing from an abusive relationship is guilt. This guilt comes from pity for the abuser, which is born of compassion, which the abuser has learned to twist like a knife in the survivor?s gut.
Most people are moved with compassion when they see others in pain. Examples include an elderly person having trouble breathing, a parent grieving over the sudden loss of a child, a crippled person struggling to walk, or an infant painfully and weakly crying. Such examples, which move the vast majority of human beings, generally do not move abusive people, because they often lack the ability or desire to feel compassion. Instead, they view such circumstances as tools they can use when the time is right. Can you imagine someone storing the memory of a parent grieving over the loss of child, and later using it to twist and manipulate that person? Not only do people like that actually exist, but there are far more of them in the world than most people realize.
Pity differs from compassion in that pity often functions similar to compassion but without boundaries. It can be endless reservoir of power and control. Abusers learn to manipulate survivors into feeling pity for them. They do this by closely observing the survivor and learning what moves them to compassion. They then create intentional scenarios which turn that compassion towards the abuser and simultaneously infuse the survivor with intense guilt. Over time, the survivor is left feeling helpless, stuck between staying in an abusive relationship and living with the horrible guilt of abandoning someone who needs them. The tragic irony is that the abuser cares nothing for them and would feel no emotional loss, only the loss of someone to control and manipulate.
A Way Forward
Leaving an abusive relationship and finding healing is no small task. It is critical for a survivor to continue to have compassion without falling into the trap of pity and guilt. We must see abusers for who they are and not throw away valuable compassion that can be twisted. If we must feel sorry for their eventual fate, it can only be done from a safe distance, well after the relationship has ended and proper boundaries are in place as safeguards. The survivor must also learn to recognize when their compassion is being used against them and learn to keep a proper distance from abusive people. One temptation can be to leave all compassion behind as a precaution against abusers, but this is also a mistake because it leaves the survivor stripped of what once made them human, and the abuser ultimately holding the victory. Instead the survivor must learn to hold on to all them makes them good and regain all that had been taken. The ultimate victory of the survivor over the abuser is the complete restoration of their soul, sending a strong message that they remain unconquered.
?I Remain Unvanquished?
**WARNING** The content in this topic could trigger you. Domestic violence can be a highly emotionally charged issue.
This information is meant to educate those who have experienced this type of abuse and for those who have witnessed loved ones go through this type of toxic relationship?or may still be in the throes of a relationship involving domestic violence. It is not my intention to add my voice the countless others who disparage domestic violence. There is a time and place for that but that is not here.
If you?re in a relationship where domestic violence has or is occurring or if you have watched or are still watching a loved one in a bad relationship and don?t know why they stay, this if for you.
First, it is essential to identify where the abused person is mentally
Here are the 5 different stages people experience with domestic violence:
Stage 1 Stage of Confusion
Stage 2 Stage of Grace
Stage 3 Stage of Acceptance
Stage 4 Stage of Unacceptance
Stage 5 Stage of Action
First is the stage of confusion which is typically the shortest stage. Depending on one?s unique set of circumstances, this stage could last an hour to several weeks. Typically, the confusion occurs after the first incident of domestic abuse. In this stage, you typically ask ?why??; Why did they hit me? What did I do? Or other questions to that effect.
Next comes the stage of grace. In this stage, one has typically asked the ?why? question. They may not actually know why they are being abused and generally, they still believe that their abuser is a good person. They are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
?He was probably tired? or ?I really pissed her off so of course she took a swing at me?.
In this stage, one honestly believes that the abuse was a one-time event or that the violence will dissipate on its own. Typically, people in this stage do not share that they are being hurt. If they truly believe it will end soon why make trouble?
Eventually they stop believing it will ever change.
At this point, the abused enters stage 3: acceptance. People in this stage may have some understanding that they don?t like what is happening but the abuse makes sense to them. They have been manipulated to believe that their abuse is logical. Typically, people in this stage want to talk to friends or family about the abuse but, when they do bring it up, no one accepts their reasoning as to why the abuse is acceptable. The most common advice they receive from those in whom they have confided is to leave.
However, they generally find this advice unhelpful. Because even at this stage they want to stay in the relationship. They don?t want the abuse, but at the same time, they don?t want to get rid of the abuser. This is a double-edged sword. This lack of understanding causes them to stop talking about it to anyone. People in stage 3 typically do not want someone else to interfere which can be incredibly frustrating if you are a friend or loved one of the abused, because this stage can last for a very long time.
Once the victim finds a supportive yet challenging voice to help them see that they are in fact being abuse and that it won?t change, they will eventually move into stage 4: unacceptance. In this stage they know that at some point the relationship must end.
?But what if there is a kid involved??
?Or they couldn?t financially support themselves at the income level they want??
People in this stage will stay with the abuser until it just becomes so unpleasant that its no longer worth the benefits of staying with the abuser. To help someone in this stage is to give them opportunities to leave. Help them learn about safe houses, resources, support groups (online or in person). Help them to physically get out of the situation. People in this stage are usually willing to rely on people who have earned their trust.
Then comes the last stage: action. A person at this stage recognizes that nothing is going to change unless they leave. They also have decided that the relationship it is no longer worth the price they are paying. This is the final stage.
It?s important that you are aware of these different stages, because if you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation you need to understand that it is a process to get help. People don?t typically leave domestic violence in one go.
If you need help, please contact someone you trust or seek the counsel of a professional. We are here for you.