I believe strongly in supporting local organizations that do the hard work every day to support victims and survivors of abuse. I've been honored to be part of my own community's (Greensboro/Guilford County, North Carolina) efforts to build and sustain a Family Justice Center, which is known as a "one-stop shop" support victims and survivors of abuse. In our community, the Guilford County Family Justice Center operates two locations in the county and serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and elder abuse. The first location opened in Greensboro in 2015, followed by the second location in High Point in 2018.
Family Justice Centers are based on a national model that woks to bring together many different types of professionals and community organizations in a way that makes it as easy as possible for victims and survivors to get the support they need. I've seen firsthand how this model has transformed our community's efforts to prevent and respond to interpersonal violence.
Because resources like Family Justice Centers are so important to me, I've committed to donating 20% of my author royalties from sales of Triumph Over Abuse to the Guilford County Family Justice Center.
If you're interested in learning more about the Guilford County Family Justice Center and how victim service resources help start survivors on the path toward recovery from abuse, be sure to come to our virtual book launch event on January 15th at noon EST. Catherine Johnson, the Center's Director, will be one of the featured speakers at the event. To learn more, check out the Facebook event page or register for free via Eventbrite!
I was so excited when I found out the timing that Triumph Over Abuse would be published on December 30th. Right before the New Year started, this timing seemed perfect to me since one of my most important goals for writing this book was to provide hope and inspiration to help survivors of past abuse begin to dream again and build hope for a more positive future.
Whether or not you're a fan of New Year's resolutions like I am, the start of a new year offers a great opportunity for envisioning a more positive future, whatever that means to you. As 2021 gets started today, take some time for self-reflection, dreaming, and even possibly starting to plan to put your dreams into action.
The quote featured here, "Start with your hopes and dreams, and then start fleshing those out and mapping out a plan to turn them into achievable goals," comes from p. 143 in Chapter 9, "Building a Strong Foundation for Your Finances and Career," in Triumph Over Abuse.
Learning to set and maintain healthy boundaries can be complicated for survivors of abusive relationships, especially in the aftermath of consistent boundary crossings by abusers. In Triumph Over Abuse, I talk a lot about how important it is to practice healthy boundary-setting as part of the abuse recovery process. This helps survivors both distance themselves from toxic people and make room for healthy relationships with friends, family members, and even possibly a new romantic relationship.
This quote, "Healthy boundaries are about making efforts to both keep bad things out and let good things in," can be found on page 46 in Chapter 3 on Surrounding Yourself with the Right Support.
Recently, we launched a new See the Triumph #SurvivorsTriumphing video series to learn from survivors who have inspirational insights into triumphing over abuse in their lives. You can check out the playlist of our first two videos on Facebook or YouTube. You won't want to miss what the two first featured speakers had to share, and I especially loved Eileen's points about finding the right kind of social support and Rachel's insights on forgiveness.
This #SurvivorsTriumphing series is so exciting to me because it's offering a unique glimpse into the stories and experiences of people who have faced abuse, and it highlights the strengths and wisdom that survivors can gain from their experiences. All too often, people focus on the problems and challenges that survivors face. While problems are a part of life for everyone, it's also important to celebrate progress and growth, even after difficult life experiences.
If you're a survivor who's interested in learning more about being featured in an upcoming See the Triumph #SurvivorsTriumphing series, please don't hesitate to reach out over email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through my Contact Form.
As I discussed in a couple recent blog posts, loneliness is a common challenge for many survivors of abusive relationships. If you're looking for some insights on how to cope during this especially challenging COVID-impacted holiday season, check out this program hosted by the Healthy Relationships Initiative that I direct.
Tomorrow, December 15th, at noon EST, I'll be facilitating the panel discussion in this free, online program. You can sign up to attend via Eventbrite here: healthyrelationshipsinitiative.org/12-15-20-coping-with-loneliness-part-ii-a-panel-discussion.
In my blog post last week, I shared how presenting a recent program on loneliness led me to reflect on how loneliness is a common experience for people who are currently in or facing the aftermath of an abusive relationship. Although loneliness is a universal experience that virtually everyone will face from time to time, it’s also an uncomfortable--and sometimes--painful experience.
Working through uncomfortable emotions is an important--yet challenging--part of the process of recovering from past abuse. Loneliness is an especially uncomfortable emotion, in particular because it can involve thinking patterns that, left unchecked, can lead to a cycle of more isolation and even greater feelings of loneliness. (You can learn more about the “Loneliness Loop” in the Healthy Relationships Initiative program by clicking here.)
There are healthy ways to cope with loneliness, which include the following:
First, know when to reach out for help. If your feelings of loneliness are very distressing or lead you to feeling hopeless, it’s important to seek professional help. You can find directories of counselors and therapists here.
Second, work on your own personal growth, including intentionally striving to be comfortable with alone time and enjoying your own company. It’s also important to work on your thought patterns and self-talk that may be leading you to self-isolate or self-sabotage when it comes to building new connections with others.
And third, take small but meaningful steps toward fostering connections with others. This could include reaching out to a friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while, joining new groups in your community to expand your social network, and practicing basic relationship skills that can be helpful across many different types of relationships.
Finally, work to overcome the stigma surrounding loneliness. Remind yourself that when you feel lonely, you’re experiencing something that’s a natural part of life. You don’t need to add any more shame or embarrassment to the mix by pressuring yourself to get over your feelings or pretend they’re not there. Take time to reflect on what your emotions can teach you about the types of connections you want to have in your life (including with others and yourself) and then identify steps you can take to build those connections.
With this being Thanksgiving week, the topic of gratitude has been on my mind a lot lately. For many people, 2020 is a year that brought so many challenges, so it’s a bit complicated to think about being grateful during such a difficult year. How can we feel thankful when life has been so hard?
This internal conflict is familiar to many survivors of past abuse. Along the journey to recovering from past abuse, at times we may feel pressure to think, “I should be thankful for my experiences, because they made me who I am today.” And sometimes, there’s profound truth to this statement, as we reflect on how those experiences led to some positive outcomes in our lives.
Each survivor’s journey is their own, so it’s always important to feel empowered to make choices that honor our preferences, experiences, and emotions. Being thankful for past hurtful experiences doesn’t need to be a decision that lasts forever. At times, I do have moments of gratitude for my own past hurtful experiences -- and other times, I am most certainly not thankful for them!
This Thanksgiving, give yourself permission to choose for yourself whether, when, and how you look back with gratitude on past hurtful experiences. And, try to identify other opportunities for gratitude that can provide you with comfort and reassurance along your healing journey.
For example, while I’m definitely not always thankful for the abuse I experienced, there are many other aspects of that experience that I feel so grateful for, including:
The lessons I learned from my experiences. Sometimes in life, we have to learn lessons the hard way (or at least I’ve had to!). There are some important life lessons I probably wouldn’t understand as deeply as I do now because of my experiences with abuse, such as the importance of having healthy boundaries in relationships and the value of taking time to build new relationships slowly.
The strength it showed me I have. I don’t always think of myself as the strongest person, and I’m usually much quicker at identifying my weaknesses and areas where I’d like to grow. But when I look back on some of the things I’ve gone through, I can see strength in places I didn’t realize I had it.
The way it equipped me to help others going through similar circumstances. When I was leaving my abusive relationship, I felt very alone and isolated. But then, I started to realize how many other people have gone through similar experiences and started to see opportunities to connect with others around those experiences. I know how much support I received from friends and family along my journey, and I try to offer the same anytime someone I know (or a friend or loved one of someone I know) is going through similar challenges.
If you or someone you know has faced abuse, what parts of your journey and experience are you thankful for? I’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to share comments on this blog post or reach out through my Contact Form with ideas that could be shared in a future blog post!
Counseling can be a helpful source of support along the journey of recovering from a past abusive relationship. However, unfortunately, many counselors lack sufficient training to understand the dynamics of abusive relationships and fully consider the safety implications that could impact survivors' emotional and physical safety during the counseling process.
Survivors can advocate for themselves and ask questions to help determine if a particular counselor is the right fit for them. Some questions to consider asking a prospective counselor include the following:
In addition to these questions, it's important to consider your overall "fit" with a particular counselor and how comfortable you'd feel to talk with them and seek their support throughout your healing process.
It's critical to get the support you need as you work through all the ups and downs of the aftermath of an abusive relationship. This includes family, friends, and professionals who understands the dynamics of abuse and can provide adequate support. It's worth some extra effort to ask questions and get the information you need to ensure that you have the right people in your corner.
This blog post was adapted from a previous post I wrote for the See the Triumph campaign. To learn more, check out the whole post here: http://www.seethetriumph.org/blog/finding-a-counselor-who-is-competent-to-serve-survivors.
What should survivors do if they reach out for help and are met with unhelpful or harmful responses?
Visit the following archived blog post that I wrote for See the triumph for more information on this unfortunately all-too-common experience for survivors of past abuse: http://seethetriumph.org/blog/what-if-i-reach-out-for-help-and-its-not-there.