Re-victimization. It’s a fancy word used to describe secondary negative consequences that have been caused by an initial trauma. Post-traumatic stress: the combined flashbacks and anxiety triggered by vivid memories of the initial trauma.
According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, one in three American women will experience intimate partner violence at least once in their lives.
It is unfortunate, but domestic violence survivors often live in a cycle where they feel re-victimized and riddled with anxiety. Despite campaigns to alter how society views survivors of domestic violence, they are often silently labeled as passive participants in their own abuse. Read more about trauma.
However, as women often do, we rise. We put Mr. Incredibly Wrong in our rear-view and focus on our children, our education and our work. We focus on everything other than addressing the immense damage that has been done to our souls. We bury the pain of black eyes, holes in the wall, shattered windows, broken trust. We persevere.
So how do we repair, rebuild and define ourselves and our self-worth so that we will be whole enough to enter another relationship? Once we are in that relationship, how do we stop the cycle of traumatic, unhealthy and abusive relationships?
- Distance. The first step is to completely distance yourself from Mr. Incredibly Wrong. I know, you moved to another state. You changed jobs. But is he still calling you? Are you still Facebook friends? Let it go. No man will ever compare to him because he robbed your brain of all of its endorphin’s and then turned around and traumatized you. A good, normal man is not going to take you on an emotional roller-coaster.
- Time. Yes, it is cliche, time heals all wounds. Your self-esteem has been destroyed. Allow yourself time to re-establish your own individual identity and recover your self-worth.
- Examine every painful detail and every event in your relationship. Write down what the red flags were. Then, promise yourself that you will exit any future relationship where you see those same warning signs.
- Trust your own judgment. Honor your intuition or “gut” feelings about someone.
- When you do find a partner, don’t sabotage the new relationship. Recognize negative behaviors in yourself that could be the lingering effects of the trauma you went through. Recognize what potential scenarios could trigger bad memories and be honest with your new partner about them.
Any woman who has been through such a trauma would be tempted to compare her new partner with her abuser. Try not to do this. Even the most patient of men will grow weary of being compared to an abuser.
Remind yourself periodically that this is an entirely new relationship with a new partner. Above all, remember that you are worthy of love and respect!