How should survivors feel, after we have left? I am not sure, but we did not feel what others expected us to feel.
My friend came bustling up to me with a big smile, rushing towards me, arms open, ready for an embrace, as she said in an upbeat tone, ‘Congratulations! You’re out.’ I did not feel that congratulations were in order. I felt like a failure. My marriage, relationship and life had failed. I didn’t feel like celebrating. There was a mixture of loss, grief, shame, anger, resentment, regret, uncertainty, relief and excitement. How can one person feel so many mixed emotions at once? It was certainly a confusing time. People would say I should be happy, though happiness was not what I felt.
As the years progressed, their tune changed: ‘You’re a man-hater.’ Their words could not be further from the truth. It is ongoing fear and lack of trust that makes survivors hesitant – scared to meet someone like that again. But where could we go for help? Who would understand?
As domestic violence survivors, we knew only too well that there was limited support for long-term recovery. That’s why we founded the charity Broken to Brilliant.