Healing after an abusive relationship

According to a report by Statistics South Africa, around one in five women (21% of women in South Africa) have been victims of intimate partner violence in 2021 alone.

The severity of the trauma and damage caused by intimate partner violence is beyond forgivable, and victims often feel so broken, that the prospect of healing and recovery seems impossible. But the truth is that healing after an abusive relationship is possible. Here are the ways I recommend you consider, when taking that first step towards healing after abuse.

Be intentional

The very first step to healing after abuse is to be intentional about wanting to get better. You may not always know what that’ll look like, but you must want to get better. Sometimes, wanting this looks like waking up in the morning feeling sad, broken, or lonely, but still reminding yourself that things can and will get better. When taking these first steps, you may experience some feelings, and/or thoughts, of uncertainty around making your own choices and decisions. You may even consider going back to the relationship, find it difficult to be independent, or feeling even more anxious or depressed. All these are common emotions to go through in the process of healing.

Build a safety plan

A safety plan is a clear strategy of how you’ll respond when you face triggers, or if you’re confronted with your abuser. Think of how it would be best to respond, if you see your abuser in public spaces or if they try to contact you on social media. For instance, you can ensure that you block your abuser from all of your social media accounts, to ensure they can’t contact you. A safety plan is meant to give you a sense of control and protection from your abuser, and any triggers that may upset you.

Lean on your support system

Another important part of building a strong support structure includes creating a circle of people around you, who’ll have a positive impact on your journey to recovery. This includes close friends and family, who have your best interests at heart, or even support groups or therapy sessions. One thing that abusers are good at is alienating victims from their loved ones. So, it’s very important to reconnect with people you care for, and who care about you too. A support system will give you the courage and motivation to continue on your journey , especially on days when you feel discouraged.

Healing after an abusive relationship can be very challenging, but once achieved, it’s so liberating. Keep in mind that the abuse was never your fault, so forgive yourself for ever thinking that it was. All your feelings are valid, so allow yourself to feel and most importantly, don’t feel like you’re going through this journey alone, because you aren’t. There are scores of people and organisations, who are dedicated to ensuring that women become the heroines of their own stories. Take the first step by getting in touch with any of the following organisations and reminding yourself, each day, that healing is possible.

People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA)

Counselling Support: +27 (0) 642 4345/6

South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)

Mental Health Line: +27 (0) 80 056 7567

WhatsApp: +27 (0) 882 2775

About the author: Nontsikelelo Henrietta Khunju is a 26-year-old Child Protection Advocate, Women’s Rights Activist, and passionate writer. She currently practices as a Community Healthcare Worker at Africa’s leading multi-disciplinary research institute. She is also a trained and licensed Flourish Host and Franchisee. She holds a higher certificate in Social Auxiliary Work and completed an accredited course in Child and Youth Care work. She is very passionate about matters pertaining to women empowerment, child and youth development.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send a Facebook message or a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).