Have you been the victim of an abusive relationship? Or perhaps you’re still in an abusive relationship?
Let’s be honest, this isn’t the easiest of topics. You might be struggling to figure out whether you should share your problems, who you can speak to about your situation, and what to do to improve it. And while being in an abusive relationship is never ok, the strict social distancing rules and lockdowns that have been implemented over the last few months due to the pandemic might make your situation even more difficult.
The good news is, Rebecca Scott, a survivor of abuse and the host of the Humans, Now and Then podcast, has agreed to share her experience as a victim of domestic abuse in order to provide hope and inspire you to shape the future you’ve always envisioned.
Know that there is light at the end of this long dark tunnel, and we hope that Rebecca’s story will provide some comfort and give you the strength you need to improve your situation.
Disclaimer: Note that this post might represent a trigger if you have been the victim of abuse or are currently in an abusive relationship, may you be sexually, physically, or emotionally abused. As a result, make sure you’re in a safe place both physically and emotionally to read this article. Besides, the advice provided in this article should not be used as a substitute to advice dispensed by a licensed professional (calling 911 or seeking additional help) but should rather be used as a complementary resource to help you improve your situation. And if you need help in the future, you can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800−799−7233 or text "LOVEIS" to 22522 to reach a trained advocate 24/7. We also encourage everyone to support their local United Way agency as this organization provides incredible support to families who have experienced abuse.
Rebecca grew up in an environment where alcohol prevailed, and although she was not abused as a child, she was bullied.
She met her first husband at a bar. He was a textbook sociopath (yep, they don’t just exist in movies). He was excellent at manipulating, lying and, therefore, could trick people into believing that he was better than he was. He would also easily convince people, including Rebecca, that he was a victim of life.
The challenges Rebecca was facing when she met him and her background as a bullied child, although she admits not as bad as some, still played a role in how she was drawn into this abusive relationship. After a while, they got married. Rebecca was 28 years old at the time, suffered from depression, and struggled with self-esteem issues. Unfortunately, her marriage slowly but surely turned into an abusive relationship.
The type of abuse was both physical and psychological. She lived in a lot of fear, mainly fueled by the psychological abuse she was enduring. This was, undoubtedly, one of the toughest things for her to cope with, and it took years for her to recover from this abuse.
Rebecca had a super cute and loyal dog, which was also somewhat a bit crazy. Aren’t they all a little, in their own way;)? One day, as these two young people were dating, her boyfriend kicked the dog in frustration, which completely shocked Rebecca. As she told him off, he apologized, playing the victim who didn’t know any better. Unfortunately, more and more things started to happen, which were, retrospectively, indicators. As the number of incidents started to increase, he began to adopt a threatening behavior that made Rebecca feel like her life was in danger if she spoke up. She also felt extremely isolated from her friends and family as his excellent lying skills would lead her to believe his made-up stories about why she shouldn’t be friends with her friends anymore or see her family. He would also put her in a terrible dilemma where she needed to choose between certain friends or relatives and him.
Rebecca was also physically abused, being held by the throat, punched in the face while holding her infant child, or smashed on the head with her phone when trying to call for help. Yet, what impacted her the most were the threats. For instance, he would threaten her or her family if she was to leave him.
The triggers leading him to become abusive could be anything from drinking too much alcohol or feeling disempowered to having a bad day or reminiscing on his terrible childhood.
While people might think that it’s easy to get out of a relationship when you first experience these signs, the behavior was sporadically introduced over time and wasn’t apparent 24/7 at the early stages of the relationship. No, instead, the patterns of threats and aggressive behavior took place gradually, insidiously becoming the norm over a long period of time. And by the time Rebecca was pregnant and, therefore, fully committed, she agreed to get married. At the time, she felt like it was the right thing to do for her, and she thought that she needed to see it through.
Extremely fearful for her children, Rebecca made a pact with her husband. She wrote on a piece of paper that if he were to become aggressive and violent again, drink too much, threaten her, punch walls, or hit her again, she would leave (yep, that definitely took some courage!). He signed the piece of paper, although never taking it seriously. Of course, what was going to happen, happened, and he broke the contract. On the day of 9/11, Rebecca kicked him out and obtained a restraining order. He stalked her for weeks, and one night, he even broke into her home holding a gun. He found her in her bedroom and threatened her. Rebecca’s survival instinct kicked in, and she managed to find the words to talk him down. He left. She called the police but didn’t press charges. Part of the reason why she didn’t press charges was that he told her he was suicidal and was, as always, brilliantly playing his role as a victim. But most importantly, by not pressing charges, Rebecca was trying to block the trauma.
Years later, as she reflects on this period of her life, she has found the strength to forgive him by understanding his own trauma. She has found a way to accept what happened and let go, cutting free from the chains that were preventing her from moving on.
And the fantastic news is that she has since remarried and is in a much better place.
The survivor has noticed that women, including herself, who enter these abusive relationships are often drawn in by a charismatic person who makes them feel special and important. Sadly, as a victim of abuse, it isn’t until well into the relationship that you start to realize that something is wrong with the relationship as you feel it isn’t a healthy one. You can even become fearful of living while still making excuses for the aggressive behavior. Yet, it’s important to understand that a terrible childhood, past traumatic events, or a difficult living situation can never be an excuse for abuse.
Instead of living in regret, Rebecca recommends processing what has happened to you and learning how to live with it. Victims of abuse might be seen as weak, but they’re actually extremely strong, often facing these dreadful situations alone. Indeed, there can be a certain level of shame that comes from being in an abusive relationship, which can reinforce the isolation. You might feel ashamed of sharing your current situation with anyone and, as a result, stay locked in this relationship.
But whoever you are and wherever you are, know this; you’re strong, and you can remove yourself from this situation. Your future can be different. The best thing to do for you and your family is to have an exit plan, seek help and free yourself from this unbearable situation.
And once you’ve removed yourself from the abusive relationship, although it might take years before you realize and acknowledge the danger you were in at the time and process what happened to you, you will be able to recover. Indeed, by acknowledging what happened, you’ll be able to find the path to healing and forgiveness and move on to a brighter future, just like our great survivor Rebecca did!
Let’s be honest, some of your past traumas or negative experiences might impact your future relationships forever. After all, you’ve been through a lot. In Rebecca’s example, she admits that she can be very cautious and wary when relationships become serious because it involves a strong level of trust.
We have to be realistic and tell you that it will probably take a lot of work for you to recover. But one of the things that might help you tremendously include counseling sessions. Indeed, these can be extremely useful and shouldn’t carry any stigma. Rebecca found talking about what happened to her transformational. Years later, she is no longer ashamed and happily shares her story as she seeks to empower women or men who feel trapped in an abusive relationship to find the courage to speak up. She wants to encourage anyone who is a victim of abuse to leave and reshape their life the way they’ve always wanted to and reach their potential. If she has done it, so can you!