Domestic Violence/Abusive father

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Question
Hello Tonya,
My father is physically and verbally abusive and I am just now coming to realize how much it has unknowingly plagued my life. I was deeply in debt and after a year of being unemployed I moved back into his house. I have now lived there full-time for 5 years. I told myself it was ok because it was a trade-off to save money and I hardly see him or talk to him. When I do see him I instantly feel the life being sucked out of me. I realize now how deeply I was in denial.

Last month a man whom I had been dating broke up with me after I told him about the situation at home. He was the first love interest I'd ever dared to broach the subject with. He said he couldn't be with someone who knowingly lived in an abusive household. He said I was too good and too special for it and he didn't want to see me there getting hurt and wasting anymore time than I had to. I was crushed. I see that it's a positive decision for him not to continue seeing me because that could be interpreted as acceptance of the abuse. Still, it stung.

I feared that this would happen. I was angry with my father. I felt it was his fault that this man I loved had rejected me. I felt that all the work I had done on myself meant nothing because my ex saw me as damaged goods due to my father's actions. I, too, would hesitate to be involved with someone who had abusive parents.

One night soon after my dad was disrespecting my mother in his usual form and I lost it. I started screaming and throwing things and yelling, "Stop disrespecting us!" He ran after me and twisted my arm backwards. I left the house to stay with a friend and my life felt like it was falling apart. We had one other physical altercation in the last 5 years. I feared leaving my mom alone with him because I thought he might beat her. I found an apartment to move into in September, but need to stay at his house until then.

That being said, I realize I have a lot of unresolved trauma and I need help finding a counselor and/or therapist. Depression has become my constant companion and it sucks. I want to fix this aspect of my life, I just feel so...tired. I have always been very private about this subject and am honestly afraid to start talking about it more openly with anyone. Where do I begin? I have tried to talk to my sister, but her attitude is an unsympathetic, "I-told-you-so."

I have been verbally, physically and sexually abused by my father and raped by a cousin when I was 12. It's a lot to sort out and sometimes it seems like it would be easier to completely break ties with my family, forget about all of it and start a new life.

What advice can you offer?

Answer
Greetings Sydney,

It takes a high level of courage to reach out for help the way that you have done.  I applaud you for taking this step.

It sounds like you have been speaking up before and that is so difficult to do in homes where abuse is present. I agree with you.  In situations such as these it is especially helpful to get help from professionals who are outside of the family and friends circle. I can understand that at first it is very difficult to be open with others when you have been so private for such a long time.

However, professionals from outside of your circle can offer clarity, objectivity, compassion, and guidance.  And even more importantly, someone who will be on your side and the side of truth.  You deserve that.  

This can be found through support groups and/or individual counseling.  One resource that I like is the RAINN online hotline (www.rainn.org).  They can put you in touch with rape crisis centers in your area.  They have counselors at some of these centers and they often have resources to counselors in the area who might be helpful.  

I also like to connect people with communities online.  Again RAINN has links to those as well. Another great resource that I like is Darkness to Light (www.d2L.org). Keep in mind that you can talk to RAINN online hotline counselors.  It's an instant messaging format.  

This might be a good place to start until you feel comfortable with one on one connections.  The important thing is that you gather a community around you.  There are millions of survivors out there just like you.  Some will have similar experiences and some will have different experiences. You will unite around suffering, hope, courage, bravery, and perseverance.

The good news is that you do not have to break ties with your family.  You might just have to take a break in order to allow yourself to heal and grow stronger.  

You don't have to forget you'll just have to begin to find new and creative ways to build new beautiful memories. And you can do that, because as a survivor you had to find creative ways to find creative ways to survive.  

Domestic Violence

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Tonya GJ Prince, Domestic & Sexual Violence Issue Expert/Post Crisis Growth Coach

Expertise

I can provide expert response to questions about relationships and intimate partner violence, safety planning, dynamics of domestic violence, teen dating violence, rape, abuse, and incest. I specialize in helping people to gain clarity about relationships so that they can live their lives on purpose.

Experience

My experience includes 22+ years of serving victims of both sexual and domestic violence. I have been a professional counselor, advocate, and a coach. I started this work because I cared about victims. It has been my honor to serve women, men, and children from all walks of life. For the purposes of this site, I assist people in gaining useful and practical information to help them to make difficult decisions.

Organizations
Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault Network, Braid the Ladder (Founder), Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline volunteer.

Publications
Author of: Speak and End Child Sexual Abuse (Amazon.com) "Sexual Assault Misconduct Source Book for Schools" (contributor),

Education/Credentials
Advanced training in sexual and domestic violence includes: safety planning, teen dating violence, court advocacy, domestic violence effects on children, rape, and sexual abuse. All of the men, women, and children that I met through my work have educated me on this complex problem. Associate's in Legal Assisting, Paralegal Certification (Old Dominion University), B.S. Organizational Management & Development (Bluefield College)

Awards and Honors
2011 Empowerment in P.I.N.K. Award from Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc. (Prince George's County, MD chapter)

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