If you or someone that you know are survivors of abuse and violence, it is important to know that recovering from negative effects of abuse is possible. Survivors of abuse have the right to be treated with respect and dignity. They have the right to live a life that is safe and free from abuse.
Here are some steps a survivor can take to help heal from the effects of abuse:
- Accept that abuse has happened. There is no need to blame yourself for the abuse. Place the blame on your abuser. Abuse is never your fault. There are no excuses for abuse.
- Make the decision to heal from the abuse. Make recovery a priority.
- Talk with a trusted person about the abuse. This could be be a close friend, family member, a trusted healthcare provider, or a staff member of your local center for independent living or domestic violence center. Talking to someone about the abuse is an important first step in the healing process (Curry et al., 2011).
- There is no need to defend yourself. Let your abuser believe or say whatever they want about you. You are in charge of your own truth.
- Remember that you are a woman of value who deserves to live a life free of abuse.
- Let yourself feel your feelings. These may include anger, sadness, grief, shame, guilt, and more. When healing, you may experience different feelings from time to time. There is no “right” way to feel.
- Learn to trust again by remembering that there are safe, non-violent people to invite into your life. Remember that trusting after abuse may take time and work.
- Take good care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, and spiritually. For example, exercise, eat healthy food, meditate or practice other relaxation techniques, get enough sleep, and reach out and connect with trusted friends and family.
- Set goals for the type of life you want to lead after abuse. Make plans to achieve your goals.
- Learn from your experiences. Work toward letting go of the past.
- Consider joining a support group for abuse survivors.
- Remember: People differ in the amount of time needed for healing. Each person’s situation is unique. We each cope and heal in different ways. Recovery from abuse can be a long-term process for many women (Flasch et al., 2017).
- Some survivors find it helpful to use their abusive experiences to become advocates in supporting victims and survivors of abuse (Flasch et al., 2017). If interested in becoming an advocate, contact your local domestic violence center.
- Seek professional help when needed to heal from the anger, fear, sadness, and other painful feelings and memories associated with your abusive experiences, as well as to work on the coping skills needed in order to move forward.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). Help is available in English and Spanish.
For safe, confidential help with sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-(HOPE) 4673.
Gunter, R. (2018). Healing from Emotional Abuse. Psychology Today.
Cleveland Clinic (2020). How to Heal from Emotional Abuse. Health Essentials.
Stines, S. (2017). Healing from Emotional Abuse. Psych Central.
- Curry, M. A., Renkor, P., Robinson-Whelen, S., Hughes, R. B., Swank, P., Oschwald, M., & Powers, L. E. (2011). Facilitators and barriers to disclosing abuse among women with disabilities. Violence & Victims, 26, 430-444. doi: 10.1891/0886-6708.26.4.430
- Flasch P, Murray CE, Crowe A. Overcoming Abuse: A Phenomenological Investigation of the Journey to Recovery From Past Intimate Partner Violence. J Interpers Violence. 2017 Nov;32(22):3373-3401. doi: 10.1177/0886260515599161.