The pressure of the festive season is often a catalyst for confessions – and confrontation. So, in day seven of my Twelve Days of Christmas series, let’s talk about difficult conversations.
DAY SEVEN if you are living with your abuser
Likely, by now you’ll have stopped trying to communicate meaningfully with your abuser. He doesn’t want to know how hurtful his actions are. He certainly doesn’t want to change. Any expression of discontent from you is seen as a threat to the man who exists to control you – and triggers to confrontation instead of resolution.
But, there are other people that can help. Even if they can’t (or you don’t want them to) help you to directly change your situation, they can provide emotional or practical support.
WHY NOT do this today?
Think about others that you could reach out to. If your abuser has isolated you from friends and family – how about supportive colleagues, the friendly neighbour, or a mother at playgroup?
If you feel uncomfortable with that, then how about an independent service provider? A domestic abuse charity? Your doctor? All over the world, there are charities and public services that provide support to people at the receiving end of domestic abuse. They can help you assess your options, provide a confidential listening service, and advise on housing and financial options. They won’t judge you, or force you to do anything that you don’t want to do. In the UK, Women’s Aid provide a 24 hour helpline – and you don’t even have to give your name (though if you do, you will get a reference number which you can use as evidence if you decide to involve the police or to take legal action involving your abuser at some point).
DAY SEVEN if you have escaped your abuser
I’ve recently had one of the toughest conversations since leaving my abuser: telling my father what had happened to me. It was hard, because I feared his judgement (which I received immediately). But, I’m glad I did it – and I’m stronger for it.
There may be people that still don’t know your story. It’s such a deeply personal matter, you may not feel ready to share it. That’s fine – you don’t need to tell anyone before you are ready (and some people need never know). But, if – like me – there’s a conversation that you’ve been putting off, perhaps Christmas is an opportunity to do so.
WHY NOT do this today?
If you’re ready to tell someone what’s happened to you, but are worried about their reaction – first of all, don’t be. The people that really matter will rally round. Those that don’t matter, won’t. If they have a problem, don’t let it become your problem. Remember:
- Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but they have a responsibility to be sensitive. It’s your story, and your life – not theirs.
- Advice is often well-meaning, but can be misguided. You know what’s best for you – you have lived with the abuse and made the strong decision to say ‘enough is enough’. So take any advice that heads your way with a pinch of salt.
- Don’t take it personally: shock, surprise, embarrassment, or simply not being certain of what to say can make people say things before engaging their brain – or their heart.
It may help you to plan out what you want to say, in advance. My advice is to stick to the facts: outline what happened to you, what you needed to do to get safe, and why you know you have done the right thing.
Think about what you want them to do with the information. Are you telling them ‘just so they know’, or do you want them to provide emotional or practical support? Tell them this. Being given the answer provides people who want to help but don’t know where to start, with steer on how to respond.
******** Wishing you a Merry and Safe Christmas, from Avalanche! ********
Check out my post, An Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Christmas, for more tips on keeping safe and happy this festive season.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14