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Tips for Trauma and Abuse Survivors During Stay-At-Home Orders

Many of the strategies for separating and recovering from an abusive relationship are the same, even during a pandemic. Although abusers may use the current health crisis as a way to manipulate your emotions, it’s important to stay grounded in fact. For example, despite current ‘stay-at-home’ orders, unless you are experiencing symptoms, or have been directed by a medical doctor, you are not under ‘quarantine’. That means that you can leave your house, go for a walk, interact with others while adhering to social distancing guidelines, and access essential services, such as counseling.

Having a routine of self-care and productive activities is essential to keeping yourself emotionally and physically well. Although your routine may look different during a pandemic, it’s important to adapt to the current situation by determining what things you are able to do safely. If you are struggling to set up a routine to keep yourself safe and healthy, then speaking with a counselor might help.

Here are some other tips for increasing your safety and wellness:

Know Warning Signs

If you are currently in an abusive relationship then one way to protect yourself, if you are unable or not yet ready to leave, is to become aware of the signs that a situation is escalating. This is true if you are isolated at home with an abusive person, or even if you don’t live with that person. Ask yourself if there are times of day, or other triggers such as substance abuse or watching the news, that tend to make the abuse worse. If that is the case, identify some strategies to get yourself to a safer place when you notice those things happening. If you are in the same residence, that might mean getting to a safer room or taking a walk. If you don’t live together, it might mean not answering the phone or ending a phone or video chat.

Record Your Thoughts and Feelings

One of the most powerful reminders of what you have experienced is to be able to read your own words about how an experience has, or is, impacting you. If it is safe to do so, start keeping a journal about how the abuse is impacting you emotionally and physically. You may even write down some thoughts about how your life would be if you were able to separate from the person who is being abusive. Make notes about how you feel when you are able to spend time without the abusive person. This can serve as a positive vision of your future and a reminder of what you’re working toward when you are ready to leave. Keeping track of abusive incidents can also be helpful if you take future legal action.

Develop a Support System

Having a good support system can remind you that there are other people out there who aren’t abusive, who care about you, and who can help you work toward your goals. Often an abusive person will isolate their partner as a way to maintain control. Spend time with friends and family who care about you, in person when possible, or through phone or video chats. Tell them what you need from them, whether that’s someone to talk to about what you went through, or someone to help keep you accountable for not talking with the person who was abusive to you.

If your abusive partner isolated you from friends and family, you may find that you no longer have that support network — but there are always people who want to help. Consider finding a counselor to talk with one-on-one, or join a support group.

Build Yourself Up

Taking care of yourself is such an important part of the healing process. Self-care and spending time doing productive activities that you enjoy sends a positive message to yourself about your value that directly counteracts messages from an abusive person. Find things that make you happy. Join clubs or try activities like a group fitness class to meet new people — either online or in person. Praise yourself for accomplishments, little or big, and counter any negative self-talk with positive mantras or affirmations. Becoming aware of what you think and say about yourself, and to yourself, can help shift negative thoughts.

Consider Professional Counseling

If you find that you’re having trouble identifying things you enjoy doing, struggling to follow through with goals you set for yourself, or unable to put boundaries in place with an abusive person, it might be time for professional help. If you feel that counseling or therapy might be helpful, sooner is always better. Counseling can be beneficial for everyone because it’s a place where you can learn increased self-awareness, clarify your goals and look at the choices in front of you.

Call House of Ruth’s Domestic Violence Support Center at 202-667-7001 ext. 515 to schedule an initial conversation about how we might be able to help.

Entering counseling does not necessarily mean that you are mentally ill or can’t cope on your own. Speaking with a trauma specialist, like the counselors at House of Ruth, can help survivors to deal with their remaining anxiety and find ways to relieve that stress. These specialists can help to process traumatic memories or experiences so that it is possible to move on. They can also aid survivors in learning to regulate their strong emotions like fear and anger.

Counseling sessions provide a safe and confidential environment for survivors to express their feelings, thoughts and fears. Counselors are nonjudgmental third-party advisors who listen and can help survivors work through the things that they are experiencing so that eventually they can move forward with their lives.