32-year old Deborah* came to House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center (DVSC) after spending eight years in an abusive relationship. Deborah was working, and had been employed steadily for the past two years while living in a rented room in a house owned by a family friend.
Deborah had tried several times to leave the abusive relationship, but always ended up returning to her partner. In her mind, Deborah knew the relationship was toxic, it had kept her from pursuing goals she had for herself, and she saw the abuse was becoming more physical. Although the abuse had been primarily verbal and emotional in the early days of their relationship, the most recent incident resulted in Deborah being choked to unconsciousness. Deborah was afraid for her life but was still unable to leave the relationship.
In working with her counselor at the DVSC, Deborah began to explore the emotional factors that kept her in, and made her keep going back, to this relationship. She is working on tolerating difficult emotional states such as loneliness, self-doubt, and anxiety rather than acting on them immediately. She is learning to soothe herself rather than look outside herself to feel better, and is able to strategize and problem solve when difficult emotional situations arise.
Deborah is now able to limit her contact with her partner to phone calls and text messages, and is now able to avoid putting herself in physically dangerous situations. In addition to these changes, Deborah has noticed the quality of her other relationships with friends and family has improved, as she is able to be in better control of her emotional self. Deborah has accomplished this over the course of eight months of weekly individual counseling.
Deborah is continuing to work with her DVSC counselor to see if she can eliminate abusive relationships entirely from her life. Now that she is spending less of her energy dealing with abuse or with being caught up in a swirl of her own feelings, Deborah is thinking she would like to return to school and pick up where she feels she went off course almost nine years ago when she first met her abuser.
*Name has been changed.