So you think you know what a victim looks like?

I’ve made a few posts on Instagram now referring to the fact that abuse victims can be literally anybody. I receive messages from a lot of women detailing their own experiences or asking for advice. It has really opened my eyes to the fact that it doesn’t matter how pretty you are, how much money you have or what you have achieved in life. It doesn’t matter if you have children or not. It doesn’t matter what colour or religion you are, abusive people can prey on anybody.

No two experiences of abuse are the same. I’ve read a lot of material in books, magazines on social media and blogs. I’ve listened to podcasts and I can say that I can relate to so many different experiences. That doesn’t mean that all of it was relevant, some was some wasn’t. I wish I couldn’t relate, I wish the women who reach out to me couldn’t relate to my story, but we do. We do because no matter what, there will always be people on this Earth that feel it is ok to abuse others.

I remember when the first reference to abuse was made when I was in that situation. I immediately jumped into a state of denial. I couldn’t have been a victim because surely I would have seen it for myself; I would have realised, right? Well, I don’t think abusers would get away with it for so long if it was that obvious. It took me a long time to accept that I had let myself slip into a situation that was so catastrophic for me.

It also took me a while to decipher what that abusive behaviour was and how it affected me. The reason I had to figure it out.. because I had never seen abusive behaviour in a context before. Sure, I could sit here and list abusive actions such as insults, controlling behaviour, coercion and so on; but its very difficult to see it for what it is when it is buried in a context along with excuses, manipulations, emotions and just life in general. That is why I felt it was so important for me to start voicing my story.

People will experience abuse in so many different types of relationships. I’d hate to think that somebody would invalidate their own experience due to the fact that they, for example, only experience three of five abusive behaviours. I would hate for somebody to downplay their own experiences due to the fact that they didn’t experience physical violence. Putting my story out there in the context that it happened in was so important for me. Yes it left me open and very vulnerable, at times I wondered if it was the right thing to do. But the reaction from most of the women I have spoken too, along with some men too, has cemented to me the importance of having a voice.

Even if you don’t know what your voice will sound like, or shakes when you talk about your experiences, or even that you start off with a whisper, it still matters. Not only is it therapeutic to educate yourself on what abuse is, you also never know who you are helping in the process should you choose to talk out loud.

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