Survivor Story: Learning to heal

Written by SAFE

At just 23 years old, Maria* had already spent 7 years in an abusive relationship. In that time, she had been manipulated, sexually abused, and physically intimidated by her husband.

There was no clear path out of her relationship. This is the case for many survivors, and often times, the survivor doesn’t realize they’re in an unhealthy relationship. To maintain power, people who use abuse rely on methods of control like minimizing the seriousness of their violence, manipulating the survivor into thinking they deserve it, controlling what they do, and much more.

For Maria, it took an especially violent night for her to understand that she needed to leave her husband. That her life was in danger.

When she came to SAFE, she was anxious and afraid. She had been manipulated into thinking the abuse she experienced was her fault. This led to low self-esteem, a battle with depression, and frequent nightmares.

While staying in the SAFE Family Shelter, Maria connected with our counseling program. She met with her counselor every week and together, they challenged the negative thoughts and false beliefs she held about herself.

In time, Maria began to shift her perspective. She started to see that she didn’t deserve the blame she put on herself—that this was one of the many ways her husband manipulated her.

Our advocates noticed that Maria was changing the way she spoke about herself, too. She stopped finding ways to excuse her husband’s violence. And she began talking about a future for herself.

As an advocate, it’s such wonderful feeling when we get to see a survivor relearn how to love themself. We talk a lot about how trauma can permanently change the way survivors think and how they go through life. But we don’t talk enough about how healing does the same thing.

Unpacking her trauma through counseling was one of the most important steps in Maria’s journey toward a happier, healthier future. She is healing.

*Names were changed to protect identity