• Sarah Strong

5 things no one told me about leaving abuse

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

(...But they should have)

When I left, I spoke with lawyers, domestic violence advocates, a therapist, and law enforcement. And I hate to say it, but none of them filled me in on what it would actually mean to leave abuse with a child. I was five months pregnant at the time, and I was led to believe that leaving would keep me and my children safe. It’s been 3.5 years since then, and I have been reflecting on the things I wish I knew. I am compiling this honest list in hope that it helps someone, and also to help friends and family of survivors understand just how difficult it is to leave.

  1. You are likely to develop PTSD. When we think of PTSD, we often think of our military coming home from battle. But Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be the result of experiencing any trauma, not just war. I’ve dealt with flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, anxiety attacks, nightmares, and depression. These are things I was ashamed to speak of for so long. But I understand that these responses are normal and valid. I am fortunate to have a great therapist now who has taught me some cognitive behavioral therapies for combatting PTSD. There was also a period of time that it was so bad, that I needed medication. And that’s okay, too. If you are in crisis and need help, please contact the suicide prevention hotline 800-273-8255.

  2. Your abuser can use the court system to abuse you further. Wow, was I naive to this when I left. I had this idea that I would press charges (I tried, the DA refused cause #fuckdv and the system), he’d be arrested (a LOL here cause you could be bruised and bleeding and the cops might still ask, “but what did you do to him?”, and that my child and I would be left alone and safe. Well, I was in for a harsh awakening. My son just turned 3, and we are going to court for custody for our 4th time next week. He made the divorce for our one-year marriage take two years to finalize. He threatens me with court anytime I don’t give in to his demands (even just last week). Legal abuse is something that many survivors deal with for years after leaving. It is financially and emotionally draining.

  3. Post-separation abuse is likely to occur, especially when you are court-ordered to co-parent with your abuser. Verbal abuse, emotional abuse, stalking, manipulation, using your children to get to you, smear campaigns, etc. This one will get it’s own blog post because it’s so extensive.

  4. You might not get a protection order (even with heaps of evidence), and even if you do, you should still take other measures to be safe. At the end of the day, a protection order is a piece of paper. While under a domestic violence restraining order, my abuser still found out where I was living in a private shelter. He messaged me letting me know he found out where I lived.

  5. You might lose friends and family. Personally, I feel like if someone supports your abuser or tries to tell you to reconcile with them, they should be cut for your life. I’ve lost friends and distanced myself from family who didn’t value my and my children’s safety.

This list isn’t meant to scare people, though I completely understand that it’s intimidating. Even though leaving has resulted in different types of abuse, I am still grateful and happy that I left.

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I’m working with @weareher to create a Facebook Group for for survivors with children. It will be a place for us to share our stories safely and to gather advice from others going through similar situations. If you’d like an invite to the group, dm me. It should be up and running by the end of the week.


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