Leaving the perpetrators.
Separating from the bad guys.
Putting distance between yourself and the person / persons who are hurting you, no matter who they are.
This is a huge topic in the treatment process for most dissociative trauma survivors. Safety. Obtaining safety from the people who are hurting your mind, body, soul, and spirit.
Dissociative trauma survivors who had an entire childhood entangled with abusive perpetrators learned to stay with, comply with, and obey offenders. These trauma survivors were clearly taught by their abusers not to leave — ever. Ouch!
Survivors of domestic violence and chronic family abuse often also spend years in the same home as their perpetrator-offender-abusers.
We all know safety is a good thing — something we are supposed to want and need.
So why is it hard to separate from someone who hurts you? Here are a few reasons. There are more….
1. The offender is a person of significance in your life.
It’s easier to leave a complete random “bad guy” when they are a stranger to you, but when the offender is someone important in your life — a father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, uncle, aunt, close neighbor, long-term friend — then it is much more complicated. The more important that person has been to you, the harder it will be to leave them.
2. The offender might be someone who you love or have cared deeply for.
Yes, it is very possible, and even common, to have tender feelings for someone who hurts you. This creates a giant conflict inside, of course, and it might feel like a love / hate relationship. It can be quite emotionally difficult and painful to leave a perpetrator when there have been years of love, or connection, or deep bonding built through a long expanse of time.
3. You may very well feel very tied to the offender on several different levels.
Your perpetrator may be involved in your life in several ways. They might be your close family member, your friend, your financial support, and your home repair / car mechanic all rolled up into one person. The more roles the offender has in your life, the harder it is to leave them.
4. You might not have the resources on your own to separate from your abuser.
Do you have your own home away from the abuser? Do you have your own vehicle or a mode of transportation? Do you have an income that is completely separate from the abuser’s income? If you leave your offender, do you have a safe place to be? Will you be out in the streets, homeless, and penniless? The fewer resources you have that belong only to you, the harder it will be to leave the offender.
5. You may have compassion, understanding, and tolerance for your offender’s health problems, and / or mental health problems.
Many offenders come loaded with additional health and mental health struggles of their own. For survivors tangled in deep bonding with their perpetrators, their genuine care and concern for the health and welfare of the offender person may make it more difficult to leave the situation. Will he stay on insulin properly? Will he take his medicine in a regular and helpful manner? Will she eat nutritionally? Will the offender be able to function?
6. When you leave, your offender may be at a high risk for suicide or destructive self harm.
Some offenders struggle from such deep emotional turmoil and mental health troubles of their own, that losing you may leave them more vulnerable to self harm, including suicide in response. This is NOT to say, ever, that this is the survivors fault or responsibility. The offender is completely responsible for their own choices, including suicide or self harm. However, this is a strong statement of reality for some people, and something the survivor may need to acknowledge, wrestle with, and resolve within themselves prior to leaving their perpetrator.
7. You may not recognize abuse as abuse, or the offender as an offender.
For some survivors of chronic, long term abuse, the abuse has become so massively normal to them, that it’s not even seen as abuse. Doesn’t this happen everywhere? Don’t all families do this? The answer may very well be no, and absolutely not! Many survivors of long-term abuse first need extensive counseling, therapy, and emotional assistance in order to see and understand what is healthy behavior, in order to be educated about leaving perpetrators.
8. When you have hope that the offender will stop being so abusive.
This is a difficult scenario, as once the survivor is emotionally entangled in a relationship with an abuser they have genuinely cared for, there might be hope, or a belief, or reason to expect the abuser will change their offending ways. Many an offender has been known to cycle around and around through the cycle of abuse, apologizing at certain points, but not ever truly making lasting change. Other offenders do begin to understand their behavior is wrong and work hard to correct this. Please be careful in discerning those who are using this approach to manipulate versus those who are genuinely involved in getting help to improve their behavior.
9. You may feel too fearful to leave the perpetrator.
Perpetrators can be very dominating, controlling, violent, and dangerous people. They ARE willing to hurt you. They have already proven that, many times over. Your perpetrator may have clearly threatened or be able to cause serious harm to you, or your loved ones if you leave. Your fear may be very well warranted and well grounded in reality, and it may very well be necessary to create a detailed safety plan / exit strategy before you attempt to leave the situation. In order to truly get out of an abusive relationship, you might have to plan ahead, and find workable solutions to address the fears you experience.
10. You may feel too alone, too powerless, too small, too vulnerable to leave your perpetrator.
If you are in an abusive relationship, and if you are being hurt or threatened, please know that there are many helpful counselors and therapists, and community agencies available to help assist you in making the decision to leave your perpetrator. You might need therapy and counseling to strengthen your internal resources, to become stronger in defending yourself from abuse, and to recognize how ongoing violence and abuse is negatively impacting your life.
You don’t have to stay connected to an offender.
You don’t have to live a life filled with violence and destruction.
You don’t have to be inappropriately touched or looked at by family members.
You don’t have to be sexually abused, physically abused, spiritually abused, verbally abused, or emotionally abused.
You deserve a healthy life full of freedom and goodness too. Just because you are used to the darkness of perpetrators, that does not mean you have to stay attached to them.
The choice is yours, and no matter what the perps taught you, you CAN leave them, and you do NOT deserve a life of abuse.
When you are ready to go….. There are people who can help you.
Live your life, be happy, and be safe!
I wish you oodles and gobs of genuine safety in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2022 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation