Support for survivors: moving on after abuse 19.12.07
If you are recovering from a violent relationship, you may find the questions and answers below relevant to your situation.
Violence against women has serious consequences for their physical and mental health. Abused women are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic systems, eating problems and sexual dysfunction. Violence may also affect their reproductive health (WHO. Factsheet No 239. June 2000).
Women who have been abused by someone who was close to them - for example, by partners or former partners - are likely to find the process of recovery can take a long time. They may experience grief, pain and a deep sense of loss, very similar to bereavement; their trust will have been betrayed, and their self-esteem and confidence will be shattered.
- I’m feeling really depressed and am finding it hard to cope and move on after leaving my abusive relationship – what can I do?
- I’ve left a violent relationship, and I’m worried about the long-term effects that domestic violence may have on my daughter. What should I do?
- My girlfriend can’t move on from a violent relationship she had previously. How can I help her?
- I’ve finally broken free of my abusive relationship, but I now have no friends or confidence left. Do you know of any support groups I could join?
- I'm looking for a support group that helps adults who have survived domestic violence as children. Does this kind of group exist?
- I need to move away from the person who abused me, and start a new life. I just don’t know where to start with moving away. Can you help? I’ve had enough of living in fear.
You’re not alone in this. Many women who have experienced abuse struggle with "getting back to normal". The pain, the loss, and effect of the experiences you had don’t go away overnight. People close to you may not understand why you can’t get through this, but they haven't directly had to experience the things you have. It takes as long as it takes, and everybody deals with grief in different ways.
You may need further help in coping with things and understanding your feelings. You have done brilliantly to get yourself this far, and you shouldn’t feel bad for needing further support.
You can contact an organisation which deals with specific types support. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Helpline* and speak to a helpline worker in confidence about your situation. They can put you in touch with a local outreach/support group to give you some further help and a chance to speak to people who’ve been through the same sort of thing as you. They can give also give practical information and discuss any options that are available based on your specific circumstances. You could also try speaking to your GP, who may be able to refer you onto local sources of help.
You could speak to your GP about arranging some counselling for your daughter. Alternatively you could contact Social Services to see if they can refer her to any specialist services. Some local domestic violence services offer services specifically for children. The National Domestic Violence Helpline can advise you of your local group.
You may also benefit from visiting The Hideout together. This Women’s Aid run website is specifically designed for children and young people to inform them about domestic violence. Also, you could consider purchasing a book called Talking to My Mum, which might help you to talk about the past and thereby avoid it being a taboo subject.
My girlfriend can’t move on from a violent relationship she had previously. How can I help her?
Listen to her if she decides she wants to talk about how she’s feeling. Don’t judge her and don’t push her to talk if she’s not ready. You could suggest she contacts a counselling service or talks to her GP if she feels depressed. Also she could contact a domestic violence organisation in your area to see whether they run support groups for survivors of domestic violence.
I’ve finally broken free of my abusive relationship, but I now have no friends or confidence left. Do you know of any support groups I could join?
Please do contact your local domestic violence organisation to find out if they’re running support groups for survivors of domestic violence in your area. If you’re a young mum, you might like to join Netmums and get to know other local mums. They contribute 25p to Women's Aid for every new person who joins and the organisation is recommended by Women’s Aid.
Yes they do. NAPAC is an organisation which deals with people who were abused in childhood. From their website you can enter your postcode and they will provide you with a list of relevant organisations in your area.
I need to move away from the person who abused me, and start a new life. I just don’t know where to start with moving away. Can you help? I've had enough of living in fear.
If you’re still at risk from your abuser you may want to consider going in to a women’s refuge. There are refuges all over the UK so you could move as far away as you want. From there the workers would help you to get permanently rehoused.
Alternatively you could apply to the local authority housing department in the new area that you would like to move to. It’s important that you tell them about the abuse: if you’re unable to stay in your home because of risk of violence there, you should be eligible for emergency accommodation on the grounds of homelessness, and this will also make you more of a priority to be re-housed in permanent accommodation. If you’re applying to a council outside your home area, they will usually want proof that you will be at risk of violence if you return to that area. If you have a "local connection" in the area covered by the council you have applied to, this should increase your chances of being re-housed more quickly.
Of course, it’s important to bear in mind your safety when thinking about where to go. It would be best to go somewhere that your abuser wouldn’t think to look for you. Please be prepared for the fact that the waiting lists for rehousing can be long and it could be some time before you’re permanently rehoused.
A further option would be to think about renting somewhere privately. Obviously your financial situation will, to an extent, dictate whether or not this is an option for you, though you may be eligible for housing benefit to cover some or all of the rent. For further advice concerning housing options you could contact Shelter. Also view the Survivor's Handbook.
*The National Domestic Violence Helpline is run in partnership between Women's Aid & Refuge.