What NOT to say to someone fresh out of an abusive relationship

I have had a little bit of help for this post by some incredibly brave and strong women so thank you to them firstly , you were a huge help.

Domestic abuse’s power lies in the secret nature of its being. This is why I harp on about it. Everytime I tell of my experiences the secret is broken. It’s not secret , my freedom brings with it my voice .

If you’ve never experienced it though , or if you don’t know anything about the subject and how subtle and insidious it is then how on earth should you know how to react if you learn someone close to you has been abused. How can you be a supporter without saying the wrong thing and freaking them out .

Well I’m not sure I have all the answers there. There are though some words and phrases after I had left that did me so much mental damage I almost felt I was back there , that set back my recovery and that made me question myself.

None of these would affect me anymore . I’d be able to explain but back then I was still ever so fragile .

As I always say I can only tell my story and it obviously doesn’t affect everyone the same way. Here’s the phrases that hurt me and caused me distress when I was newly out of the abusive relationship.

Why did you stay so long?

The people who asked this were well meaning. I know the question came from a good place . A worry that I’d gone through what I had so long .

To me , newly away from that though , it just showed me what I was up against . How people just wouldn’t understand. That unless you were tied up in the cellar you had the free will to leave . Your free will is often taken before any violence occurs , if it does at all. So much work goes into the perpetrator re programming your brain and convincing you that you can’t live without them. Some women suffering financial abuse cannot leave as they have no access to money . Some perpetrators physically take away shoes and keys and outdoor clothes to make leaving the house physically impossible to leave . Domestic abuse covers a huge spectrum of behaviour. Rarely is standing up and walking out a possibility.

If a guy ever hit me I’d…

Kick the shit out of him

Leave immediately

Chuck him out.

As I mentioned above , domestic rarely begins with a punch. Many of us I’m sure if we had a perfectly great partner would react differently if he just punched us in the face out of nowhere. However the headwork that is usually done previously to violence means you are filled with self doubt , you believe that you’ve done something to make him angry by the time blows are struck , again if ever .

This kind of comment to a woman who has done the most brave thing is judgy and it’s unhelpful. It insinuates that only weak women are victims of abuse , stupid women , lame women.
This could not be further from the truth domestic abuse affects every sector of society from the High Court Judge to the lollypop lady , the stay at home mum , the doctor , the checkout lady , the nursery nurse , the film star ,the teacher . It is everywhere.

You seemed such a good couple

Aaarrgghh ,do you know how much hard work is put in to ‘keeping up appearances’ to ensure no one ever knows what is going on. The shame is huge , you can’t yet acknowledge it to yourself , the rest of the world sees The Nice Guy . It’s exhausting and stressful and you are filled with fear of anyone finding out. Of course you are going to put on the show of your life !!

Well there are two sides to every story…

Ugh this one is a real gut wrencher. Yes there are 2 sides . His probably sounds way more convincing than mine too , he’s had time to perfect it and add little believable details. He’s told his so often . To his family , friends , everyone he knows . He’s told it so often he probably partially believes it himself .

Her story though . It’s fractured and it’s panicked . It doesn’t make much sense . It contradicts itself and is still vague as she can’t stand to go into detail yet. Doesn’t want to relive it and doesn’t want to upset those that love her but detailing the worst.

These were my biggest triggers to shame and trauma .

There are more though

“other people have it way worse”

“It can’t have been that bad or you’d not have stayed”

” You’re such an attention seeker /drama queen “

“You just love playing the victim”

“Well I did warn you ,I have no sympathy”

All so many things that I’m sure mostly aren’t said with any kind of malice. Just thoughtless and said with a lack of understanding , which is easy because abuse is so complex and hard to understand!

Survivors don’t expect the rest of the world to ‘get it ‘ but just maybe to do a little reading or research if you are helping someone through it . We need our supporters , our cheerleaders . We need a hand to hold and to be allowed to tell our story. Just be patient if we are rattled or affected by something that seems silly to you.

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16 thoughts on “What NOT to say to someone fresh out of an abusive relationship

  1. I think there are similar things to say about abuse’s cousin, bullying. It has happened close to home, in school, so I won’t elaborate, but those bullied aren’t always the obvious, meek types. Strong, seemingly tough characters can be brought down too. #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Everything in this post is true. I didn’t have any physical abuse but my narcissist ex-husband was a gaslighting expert and his mental abuse was very real. The “show” he put on to make people think that I was crazy was insanely good. What amazes me is that people bought it!
    After 12 years in that marriage, I finally left. What I realized was that he was right… no one would believe me. Questions like this proved to me that no one believed me. The people that he convinced through the years helped me loose custody of my kids.
    12 years after the divorce…he is still playing the victim and still making me out to be crazy even though he is married again! His game hasn’t stopped and now he is trying to turn our grown children against me.
    Abuse, in any form, is real and until you have actually been in a relationship like that, just keep your questions to yourself!!!
    Thanks for sharing this post. #ABloggingGoodTime

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Gaslighting is so powerful and so damaging.That is how I felt when I left ,that he’d been proven right and no one did believe me when they questioned me

      Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the most awful things about being in this kind of a relationship is that you begin to doubt yourself too. As you say, a lot of these comments come from a place of kindness but are just not really understanding. You have to have been there to truly get it! Glad that is behind you! #ablogginggoodtime

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i can’t begin to imagine being in the situation, or to understand the mentality of an abuser. But I do accept that it must be unbelievably complex, and mentally and physically difficult to escape from , as its such a complex web of mental controls and barriers that the perpetrator has built. You have my greatest admiration for escaping it and surviving it. #dreamteam


  5. ” It’s not secret , my freedom brings with it my voice .” This is such a powerful sentence! What a warrior and inspiration you are! I too was in an abusive relationship, I was 19 when we first got together and he seemed like the most charming, romantic partner and so in love with me. They truly groom us, it all begins with such a game of manipulation and a lot happens before the first time you are hit. I really think that is what people don’t understand. I was beaten, accused constantly of cheating, if I was late from uni he would say I’d been unfaithful and rape me, he dragged me across the floor by my hair, cut up photographs, threatened to kill himself if I left, threatened to kill me, my family who he isolated me from and I was terrified to leave. Some nights I fled the house and hid in strangers yards hoping his mood would settle, I would be only in my nighty and just want to throw myself in front of a car and end it all. After I finally left, he found me, followed me, turned up at work, in the car park, one night I went to my bedroom and just faintly saw him standing in the dark outside my bedroom window. I am so lucky he never got me pregnant as believe me he tried. Sorry I didn’t mean to unload, it is just I never really talk about it. There are those stigmas, just as there are around many things people don’t understand, or don’t try hard enough to understand. I think you writing about it and sharing your story gives many of us courage. Thank you for linking this up with #ABloggingGoodTime


  6. The first one. I can’t believe people still ask this! That’s like someone being in a car accident and the person asks why they decided to smash their car. Ummmmm – it’s not that simple! #DreamTeam


  7. Your post is so powerful and So true! I work at a hotline counselor for a wonderful little non-profit called Safe Passage. It specializes in helping survivors of domestic abuse but also does community outreach to help educate the public about Domestic Abuse. I still remember vividly what my mother went through when I was a child. I wrote a post about my own personal story on my blog. If you’re interested in reading it I can send you the link. I am so glad you are speaking about your experiences. It is true that by speaking up about it, takes its power away. #ABloggingGoodTime

    Liked by 1 person

  8. #thesatsesh the fact we still need to tell humans what not to say and these obvious lines need to be highlighted supports my view that our species is vile. However, another well written and passionate post babes.


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