What happens when you live with violence for years of time?
When violence happens every day, or every other day, or every week?
How do you cope with that much fear and chaos?
How do save yourself from falling into a deep, dark depression?
What happens to your sense of trust?
What do you do with your own huge feelings?
What if you are trapped in that situation and don’t know how to remove yourself from it?
Living with chronic family violence / domestic violence can feel impossible, and yet, when you are trapped in that situation, it feels equally impossible to find a way out of it.
The ongoing chaos and fear erodes all sense of safety and security. Why? Because you’re not safe. You know you’re not. And there is no security. You know that it can happen again, any minute now. Maybe not this hour, but just as easily in 3 minutes from now. That constant need to be wary of and prepared for instantaneous explosions of rage keeps you in a constant state of fear and crisis.
“I’m strong enough — I’ll be able to get through this scary episode.”
Did you say that to yourself?
Yes, you probably were strong enough to survive it — obviously you were, or you wouldn’t be reading this article right now. And thank goodness you survived it. I’m really glad to see that, well done. It’s very good and a testament to your strength of character that you survived it.
But at what cost? What have those years of violence done to you?
And are you out and away from violence today? Could it happen again? Are you still caught in the cycle? Or have you found your way all the way out of the abuse-trap? And have you created enough safety in your life right now that you can enjoy living and have pleasant or beautiful days that are not filled with pain or fear?
“I’m smart enough — I’ll plan my escape route, and have emergency plans ready.”
Did you have to do that?
- Do you keep your car keys in your pocket at all times?
- Do you keep clothing, personal hygiene items, pillows, and blankets packed in your car, or near the door?
- Do you have an extra supply of any medical necessities, such as medications, first aid materials, inhalers, insect repellent, or sun screen packed in your car or an accessible place?
- Do you have a secret hiding place, or two, in mind at all times?
- Do you have a place to go?
- Do you have a few dollars hidden away somewhere to use for emergency funds?
- Do you have an extra phone charger or coins for a pay phone and a list of helpful phone numbers?
- Do you keep your phone well-charged, especially when you can see that violence could be looming ahead?
- Do you have an extra car key or house key tucked away for emergency purposes?
You may have to run out the door in a giant hurry. Be ready and prepared ahead of time for that.
Keep your emergency stash hidden in places where you can get to them. This might mean things need to be hidden in trees, or sheds, or somewhere outside where you can still get to what you need if you are out of the house.
And what if you aren’t old enough to drive, or if you don’t have a car. Then what? Where could you go?
This particular article focuses more on adults living in family violence / domestic violence.
It’s an even bigger mess when children are living in family violence. The options are so much more limited — practically non-existent — for a child to find safety and protection from family violence on their own. It’s hard enough for an adult to leave a violent situation. Children need the help of safe adults to find ways out of violence.
Without protective adults, children even in their youngest years have to learn how to comply with violence, how to survive ongoing violence, how to exist within violence, how to dissociate from violence, how to separate from intense fear and pain, how handle such crises all on their own, etc. The scars on children run incredibly deep. The topic of childhood violence needs many articles of it’s own, separate from this one.
Regardless of your age, living in a constant state of fear and needing to plan for the very real possibility of violence in your every single day has an enormous impact on your overall life. Adults have more choices and resources than children, but adults can be depleted, trapped, and blocked from their freedom as well.
Planning to leave and remove yourself from the violence is crucial for your survival. Even if you can leave the premises for short periods of time, that will show you that you can do what it takes to leave for longer.
Eventually, you’ll be able to make plans to leave the violence completely. It really will take some pre-planning, so use those smarts of yours and get yourself outta there as soon as you possibly can.
Is there interference in your daily functioning?
It’s difficult to fight any battle at your best when your physical resources are weakened, and chronic family violence can certainly wear you down.
It’s hard to sleep, because you might need to stay awake to make that escape from danger. Or, you might be trapped in a raging episode, and you won’t be allowed to sleep because the raging abuser won’t allow it. Or you might find it hard to sleep outdoors or in your car. Or you might be so upset and distraught by the violence that you can’t calm down enough to sleep.
It’s hard to eat properly. In a state of crisis, people tend to eat little or nothing or overeat . Being able to cook or create healthy meals takes time, planning, and preparation. When your day or evening is suddenly interrupted by violence, you either eat nothing at all, or eat what you can grab quickly, or you eat what you can find out in town.
Possibly you had a few food items packed in your emergency get-away bag. It’s better than nothing, but healthy options may be less available for pre-packing. Crisis eating can be very different from healthy eating, and that becomes another layer of problem experienced.
Have your medications or medical routines been compromised? Has your medical equipment been broken, hidden from you, tampered with, or destroyed, just so you couldn’t have it? Do you have the ability to take proper care of your health and medical needs while you are fighting against ongoing family violence?
Do you have the resources to leave chronic violence?
What if you are financially dependent on the person who is raging? What if you don’t have your own source of income? What if you are a child unable to provide for yourself? What if you are ill or disabled? What if you work from home but the raging abuser just chased you out the door?
There are numerous different options for being stranded and financially trapped.
Sometimes leaving abusers means you’ll be homeless for awhile. Sometimes it means you will be living in your car. Sometimes it means you will be living in a shelter. Sometimes it means you’ll be out on the streets with no where to go. Maybe you have a friend or two you could stay with, or maybe you’ll be all alone.
When living out on the streets feels safer and less risky than living at home with violent raging, you know you’ve got a problem.
Leaving family violence / domestic violence situations, can create a whole new crisis for the survivor. Just walking out the door (or running out the door) isn’t enough. It’s a great start, but there are layers of additional problems that can make leaving a violent home a very complicated process. When you know you need to leave, start planning ahead. Figure out your options, and know your local resources, and gather the items you need as quickly as you can.
In the urgency of encouraging people to find safety from violence, I’ve strayed off the original intended topic.
What does chronic family violence do to a person?
Here’s a brief list:
Frightens them — literally, living in fear, with shaking, nightmares, hypervigilence, incontinence, diarrhoea, etc.
Keeps the survivor in a constant state of crisis, chaos, conflict, and confusion
Destabilizes and interrupts plans for everything from personal growth, employment, education, entertainment, budgeting, nice dinners, quiet evenings, etc.
Prevents healing, creates new wounds, and opens old wounds
Puts the physical body in a state of crisis, affecting weight, sleep, health, digestion, etc.
Creates difficult and heavy feelings of shame, embarrassment, horror, fear, terror, etc.
Interferes with personal growth and self esteem and overall wellbeing
Socially isolates the survivor, either by demands of the abuser, or by needing to hide the evidence of abuse from others
Makes physical injuries and scars, including lifelong scars
Makes emotional injuries and scars, creating PTSD, anxiety, depression, dissociation, depersonalization, etc.
Impacts the ability and willingness to have positive relationships with other people
Creates fears and phobias about simple, normal household items or routines that were turned into weapons or used to create pain or terror
Personal items of value or necessity get destroyed, ruined, stolen, sold, etc. creating an overwhelming sense of loss and powerlessness
The repeated disrespect and extreme devaluing of the survivor’s worth and importance creates deep emotional pain and self-loathing.
Financial stress, possible years of poverty, with unexpected expenses, increased medical bills, interrupted work schedules, extra expenses for repairs or replacement of items damaged or destroyed, all due to the chaos created by violence
Having your life threatened repeatedly teaches the survivor to question the value and importance of their own life, but often not in a positive way.
This list can be expanded in numerous ways — it is by no means complete.
When you think about the ways that chronic family violence affected your life, what else would you add to the list?
Please feel free to add your ideas to the comments below. We all learn from each other’s experiences.
I want you to be safe.
It was horrifically wrong for you have been abused as a child.
It is not okay whatsoever if you are being abused as an adult.
You need safety.
You deserve safety.
Take as many little steps as you need to get yourself out of violence of every kind.
I wish you the best in your healing journey. Be safe!
Copyright © 2008-2020 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation
wow. I am so glad i found this site. yall just dont even know. its almost like being rescued to hear others talk about my life. i still dont see me getting better though.
Kathy Broady MSW says
Welcome to Discussing Dissociation, and it sounds like you have found a place where people already understand what you’ve been thru’, since they’ve lived it as well. Being around people who truly understand your struggles is an essential part of your healing journey, so maybe just maybe you’re already steps ahead of where you were before.
I believe there is hope for everyone. Sometimes… truly healing and safety requires making some super hard decisions, but once you find out HOW to work with your system (assuming you’re DID), you can make giant steps forward. I believe that 100%, and if I didn’t, I should just go sell shoes at Walmart or something. But yeah… healing and getting better is absolutely 100% possible!
Have a good long read around this site. There is LOTS n LOTS of info here, so… hopefully you’ll feel more inspired and encouraged that anything.
Thanks for saying hi. I would love to hear more about how you don’t see yourself getting better. How would it look if you were getting better? Sometimes it feels so hopeless on this healing journey, especially when I’m not getting anywhere with my insiders. Or when there’s a block of some sort.
I’m glad you found this place too. Feel free to post here if you’d like. We’d all like to get to know you better if you want.
The community I live in amongst alot of meth, heroin. drinker’s and weed user’s where I don’t use nothing, has been against me for year’s ! Even the DA,
Victim’s Office, Police, Mental health office, Dr’s , community out reach office’s and yes even NOHA !
I was and have been blamed for everything that has happened here in my life. Even tho I have proof that I haven’t ever went out of my way to do bad thing’s to people.
That must be so discouraging to endure that. I hope you do have support people that help through all the craziness of life. I have found that when people don’t believe me, if I’m understanding you correctly, is the most frustrating thing ever! I’m so sorry you’ve encountered this behavior. I hope you comment here as much as you need to. If you want support here, you will find it!
Take care of yourself as much as you can.
Dee Termhynd - Surviva says
I did a youtube video about this exact topic! You can view it and see what my views are in regards to the lifelong effects of DV and abuse through the above link!
A great article that I couldn’t agree more with. THank you
Kathy Broady MSW says
Hey Dee —
Welcome, welcome to Discussing Dissociation.
I’ve listened to your video, and you’ve certainly been through a lot in your lifetime. That’s heavy duty stuff — lots of heartbreak, that’s for sure. I hope you continue to look around this site, as there is a whole lot of helpful information, and a lot of resources for trauma survivors.
I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Hello Isolated Embarrassment,
I get what you are saying about wondering if you are even worth food…although my situation is a bit different.
I didn’t “hoard” food so to speak….but even now at my age (63)…I am very protective of “my share” of the food…….my husband is retired, but I still work…..I would buy a treat box of cookies or something and when I got home it would be all gone….I would be livid…..I finally started buying two boxes of whatever…one for him and one for me…..I would be more livid when he ate up his AND mine as well….it took years of me “laying down the law” to him that he was NOT to eat my share….my share always lasted much longer than his….and I would let him know clearly that if I chose for my share to get hard or moldy or freezer burnt, then that was MY business….and he wasn’t to try to “save” it……(he would think it was his duty to “save” it the next day!)
I would hear all this stuff coming out of my mouth and not have ANY clue as to where it was coming from or why…..it sounded horrible!…..but to me it felt very “critical”………..Gradually I came to realize that my “share” of the food was somehow proof to me that I “existed” – that I had “value” – that I was even “worth” food………when he ate my share….it was like he was telling me that my “existence” meant nothing….which triggered off a scary rage in me…….
I grew up in fear of my father’s potentially explosive anger……afraid that he would completely lose control and we would die……I think he had some untreated combat PTSD as well as unhealed issues from his own childhood……
Growing up around Daddy I felt no sense of value….had no voice….no right to an opinion much less dare to express one different from his…….we could get in trouble for a “look” on our face – although I never could figure out what that “look” was….he never put us in the hospital which totally messed me up as to whether we were even “abused” or not………
Soooo, somehow, having “my share of food” that I could do whatever I wanted with in my own time and my own way became “critical” to me……it represented I “existed”………I am still trying to plow through and tone that one down because it can get pretty intense …..my husband finally now makes jokes about it and thinks it’s funny…..but me? I am serious……..If he disregards my “existence” and just takes it, I am livid……if I CHOOSE to give it to him….then he is a happy soul…..but it has to be MY choice and in MY own timing…….
My husband can at times be very kind and giving (which throws me big time because it causes massive internal confusion), but he is a “water under the bridge…just forget about it” kind of guy…….I can’t even begin to explain to him all that I go through and deal with……he just thinks I’m full of “excuses” if my perception of something suddenly changes……..triggers at work….triggers at home….sometimes life just isn’t fun………to not be “heard”, or your pain “seen” or understood can be so, so hard….
isolated embarassment says
I cried reading this article. Its so hard to eat when IM FIGHTING AGAINST ONGOING VIOLENCE. Its humiliating and shameful that a friend tells me to eat and not be retarded like my father, when i told her that he hates me eating. He comes in the kitchen throws stuff on the kitchen floor while im cooking. Its like i dont deserve food. My friend made me feel like what im going through isnt important. She would talk about her pain and i would comfort her and sympathize with her. I felt my pain is silenced by my friend. I felt like everytime i talked she would shovel sand on my pain to quiet me.
Yeah, it makes what im going through even more hurtful. What do you think? Am i crazy or sensitive? Overreacting? Something wrong with me? Please say something.
I don’t pretend to understand what you are saying but the sad face speaks volumes. I can guess at some of the words but I would be doing just that – guessing.
I’m sorry that you seem to be hurting and sad. You are welcome in this place.
Like Wren I am guessing at your words here although I think that — scared, alone, shame, terror and awful maybe the words. Regardless if my interpretation is right or not, you sound in great pain and, I am thinking, maybe you are a little one so it is hard to communicate here. I just want you to know that we hear you. You are not alone here. You have this great safe place that Kathy has made for us all. You can come here and talk to us. We will understand. We know how tough it can be.
Hang in there.
Thank you for the thoughtful post. I’m sorry it was triggering. It was for me as well.
You put it exactly right. It really is amazing the wonderful labyrith of material here. I keep stumbling across more paths all the time.
“…. the paradox of terror of abandonment” Oh, that will take some slow contemplation.
I get the section on food, too. I also hoarded food as a kid. Heck, I was hoarding food when I was 40. I still feel safer if I have a well stocked pantry “Just in case.” I was treated for anorexia and bulimia, even hospitalized at one point. My medical issues of the last few years coupled with some pretty high levels of antidepressants have made weight gain a real problem. I can look at food and get fat. Sigh. Sometimes I go days without eating. Other times I overeat so that I go emotionally comatose. Neither of these are healthy ways of dealing with pain, especially given that I am diabetic.
I am trying to learn to do things differently. It’s a struggle.
This year I decided to go vegetarian. I’ve been migrating that way for a while. I just don’t want to harm anything. Preparing and eating meat is a trigger for me. I have terrible nightmares around it. Vegetarian is a better way for me.
The abuse I endured was so complex and multilevel and “eclectic” for lack of a better word that I find it difficult to even believe myself. This article lets me look at it from a different vantage point. Pretty much everything on that list applies and I could add in a few more. If I can put a check mark next to all those things on that list…then something must have happened. It’s a pretty validating list.
You are not alone, ME+WE. You are not alone.
Oh wow … thank you Wren for discovering this article and posting a comment to act as a beacon to this enlightenment. I find that I am finding new things all of the time here in this wonderful labyrinth of information that Kathy has created for us. I have explored these pages over and over and over again but continually discover fresh insights. And then one of my friends here uncovers something special and comments on it and a whole new galaxy of understanding is opened up to me. Oh how wondrous this journey.
But, I must confess that I could only skim over this article. Its truth spoken so honestly cut too deeply to linger. I will return to the well of understanding here but, for now, I just want to comment that family violence does not necessarily play out in overtly violent acts. Death my a thousand tiny cuts is no less cruel. It sinks deeply into your heart and soul and forever changes who you are. And, you end up living in the paradox of terror of abandonment while longing for escape. What irony life!
Oh … and the section on food … oh my. For some reason it was the part that jumped out and smacked me into reading. I so struggle with that issue of food. I SO STRUGGLE WITH FOOD!!!! I hoarded food as a child. My issues with food came about at the same time as my abuse and instead of asking what might be happening to me to cause such a change, I was rejected, ridiculed and forced into a life of shame. I lost over 120 pounds (but have a way to go) in the past two and a half years as I have discovered my insiders and my history but I have slipped badly in recent months gaining some pounds back. I do not want to live like I was before. I do not want to live paralyzed by fear that drives me to food for comfort and punishment. I do not want to live the script that my family wrote for me. I want to write my own future.
Okay … sorry friends. I am having a bit of a dissociative time right now ranting and all.
My heart just hurts reading that list of what abuse does. It is so spot on. I feel validated and sad at the same time.
Amazing to think that being safe is one of the things we get to have.