18 min read
22 Jun

Each story of abuse is different, and because there are so many types of abuse, it's hard to recognize it as it happens or how to react when it happens to someone we know.   

However, since you're reading this article, you or someone you care about has taken a massive step in recovery by being able to recognize the situation as an abusive one and are no longer in it.  

Now it's time to leap out of this narrative and create your new one. While our human experiences are unique, you'll find that human emotions are remarkably similar, and that makes sense since they're the basis of our human connection.  

With these human connections in mind, we have created this list for survivors in a safe space (physically) but want to explore more healthy ways to deal with or cope with the many complications that may surface next.           

Here are 12 ways that can help you deal with the aftermath of abuse.

#1- Patience 

#2- Self-Care Your Way                                                                                        

#3- Free Expression 

#4- Embrace or Create Positive Affirmations 

#5- Boundaries and Avoiding Misunderstandings  

#6- Un-blame Yourself! 

#7- The Reaching Out Choice  

#8- Mind and Body Healing 

#9- Dieting to Live 

#10- Self-Protection and Self-Defense  

#11- Financial Empowerment 

#12- Professional Help 

Let's take a deeper look into how each way can help, why they help, and who to call if things get overwhelming or dangerous.  

#1- Patience 

Once you realize you're in an abusive relationship, there's no reason to linger for even one extra second!  

The longer you wait, the harder it is to leave, and the easier it is to feed your mind a narrative where all this is acceptable.  

However, when it comes to reclaiming your life, the aftermath does take time, so your patience might be tested.  

It's normal to feel that the leash over your life feels unfamiliar in your hands, but that does NOT mean this is not where it's supposed to be.  

Don't burn yourself out by trying to make many massive changes all at once. Instead, go for the smaller and more sustainable ones. Besides, survivors of abuse who are newly regaining independence face many emotional challenges, so try to make drastic decisions only when necessary or consult someone who can offer nonbiased advice or guidance.  

Research your choices, and feel free to reach out to others for advice and or support. Be proud of daily (positive) mindset shifts that you notice, every step in your journey matters.   Learning to be patient with your emotions, the situation, or others is one helpful way to deal with the aftermath of abuse. 

#2- Self-Care Your Way!  

The internet is good at telling you what you need, but that's only because it gives you the most basic and standard answers.  

If you look up how to take care of yourself, you'll find pictures of runs, hikes, bubble baths, and sandy beaches.  While all these are great ways of taking care of yourself, recovery is best done according to your needs and choices.

Exercise is great, but maybe you're more of a dancer than a runner? Perhaps you hate hiking, and you'd rather sit down with a book? Then, it's time to put what YOU want first.  

Please ensure that it is a healthy activity to avoid jeopardizing your healing progress.  Remind yourself that adding drugs, alcohol, or toxic people will not help feelings go away; instead, they can make you feel more anxious. 

Talk to a professional if you have a problem with any of these areas to encourage a healthy lifestyle from here on out.    

#3- Free Expression  

By now, you have gone through several changes: some good and some not so good. So naturally, the last thing you want to do is worry about being judged, and lucky you, art offers just that.   

"But I'm not good at art," you might say. Well, it doesn't have to be art, and guess what? It doesn't have to be good either.  

Free expression is another thing in your recovery that you're doing just for you! Seeing your thoughts and feelings transmitted into something before you and looking at it when you feel sad or angry can be freeing and therapeutic.  

Try painting or drawing in colors that represent how your feeling. If the desire to tear or break these portrayals of your emotional state exists, tear or break them to vent naturally. Crying is healthy and doing it during free expression time is understandable, so having a friend close by you is a good idea but only your choice to make.   

Getting creative will help you let out feelings but more importantly, look at it from another perspective and see your story come together as a whole.  

You can try keeping a journal filled with poorly written poetry, paint messy canvases or play an instrument loudly. It doesn't have to look or sound good for others, but it should feel good to you.  

#4- Embrace or Create Positive Affirmations 

Even if you think they're silly, even if you don't believe they work, try repeating positive affirmations at least once a day or when negativity encompasses your emotional state.  

Positive affirmations are easy to find online or on social media platforms like Instagram because they work for many people. 

However, don't feel bad if they don't work for you. Sometimes you might like them better if you find or create some that speak directly to your insecurities, fears, or even desires. Try it today!               

If you feel insecure, repeat this mantra:  

"The power of beauty is in the strength of my tongue and bat of my eyes. I am the beauty within and within me is the beauty I exude!"   

Recovering from abuse is all about changing your narrative, and that means you need to refocus your subconscious mind and start forcing a more positive approach on it.  Positive affirmations help rewire your mind to the exact opposite of what you were made to believe in your abusive situation.  

Whether you've been abused by words or by actions that planted unwelcomed thoughts inside you, neutralize them by repeating to yourself the exact opposite of it. 

There are hundreds of websites, blogs, books, and social media platforms with catered emotional affirmation sheets or references available 24/7. Self-love, depression, money, and more life-changing affirmations are only a few clicks away, so please never hesitate to try feeling better.      

Remember, the key to making affirmations work is to say them and believe them. Then, eventually, your brain will think it's real, and so it becomes a reality.  

Focus on what you want, say it, and confirm it. Period!   

#5- Boundaries and Avoiding Misunderstandings 

Boundaries are needed when dealing with two types of people: (A) Nice people who unintentionally do mean things and (B) Everyone else. 

Being a survivor of abuse is hard enough, and the last thing you need is to be blindsided with reminders (or triggers) of that trauma. Setting up boundaries with people you meet doesn't have to be a verbal agreement, so don't worry about creating a speech for every person. 

Boundaries can represent how you allow others to interact with you safely and how you respond to those situations if they do not abide by your clear boundaries, limits, or rules.

For instance, when someone steps a little too close in public, how do you respond? Do you step away from them as your first attempt to distance yourself and signal that you are giving them space with eye contact? That's great when it works.  

But what if they step closer again? How would you handle it then? 

Stop and think about the safest way to address the unfolding event. Even if it is unintentional, it is upsetting you, and therefore you have the right to either move away or ask them to please step back.   

Learn how to be mindful of your surroundings, the entrances and exits of all structures, and the people near you in case they are aggressive individuals you can safely escape. This is just a general safety tip that can be applied when dealing with potentially dangerous individuals or situations. 

Stepping out of your comfort zone should be your choice; nobody else should be the one forcing you to do it. Whether these are physical boundaries or social ones, learn to be clear about what's okay with you and what's not. 

This step will make you feel more control over your own life and protect you from falling back into an abusive situation. 

You must be clear with yourself and others about what is considered acceptable treatment from them and what's not. No exceptions.

State your feelings or concerns clearly and honestly. Explain if you choose to but do not feel obligated to give details or reasons for your feelings. 

Setting boundaries that make you more comfortable will also help you avoid misunderstandings and encourage healthy relationships. 

Please follow up with your doctor (if you have one) and research more on this matter to learn healthy ways to utilize boundaries. 

In addition, there are several books, websites, and even social media platforms that have professionals ready to assist you further. 

#6- Un-Blame Yourself! 

Abusers have a way of making you believe that their abuse is well-deserved and your fault. 

Even when you're far away from abusers and their tactics, it's normal to feel a sense of judgment or blame.

Don't waste energy doubting your past judgment calls. Yesterday we had dirty hair, but you washed it out because you were ready for it to be clean. 

Clean away doubts the same way you wash your hair because just like hair naturally gets dirty, so does our judgment. You don't blame yourself for having dirty hair by the end of the day because that's silly. It's not our fault the same way your abuse was not your fault!

The truth is, you've made a big step that your past self was not capable of making and living healthy is possible because of that choice. 

What you went through was not your fault, and it doesn't define who you are. However, healing from it and protecting yourself from slipping back into danger is critical to living healthy and happy, so the second self-blame happens un-blame yourself. 

#7- The Reaching Out Choice 

You've probably heard this by now, "You can't make this journey on your own." 

That's not 100% true because, frankly, you can. This whole healing journey revolves around you anyway, so why should it matter if you have people around you? 

Nevertheless, others keep you accountable, and they act as a friendly reminder on the path you are taking if you ever feel lost.  People can be that friendly pause when things in your world get overwhelming, and you need to think about something else.

 You might not think you need others, and that is okay too. This is your recovery, and only you know what is making you feel healthy and safe.

Always follow your doctor's advice and treatment plan. If it is not working, it's okay to ask about other options like holistic healing and the possible need for medication. 

#8- Mind and Body Healing

After abusive relationships that involved traumas to bodies, physically or mentally, it is critical to seek medical treatment, for several reasons such as but not limited to:  

  • Our bodies can turn/transform broken bones (and other traumas like abuse or rape) into depression, anxiety disorders, or more severe health conditions such as strokes when left untreated.   
  • If a Sexual Violent attack occurred, the risk of disease via STD  or now Covid 19 is present, so please seek evaluation and treatment by a licensed professional. 
  • For child-bearing females, the risk of pregnancy and the long-term effect of that pregnancy requires immediate attention. 
  • Medical treatment and evaluations can drastically improve legally proving an attack occurred. Physical proof is beneficial to have in court hearings or proceedings, and the more you have, the better chance you have at getting justice.    

Once medical treatment has been performed, a licensed therapist or psychologist can begin treating the mental aspect of the abuse and its possible effects. 

Follow your doctor's advice and follow up with research when in doubt of a service, provider, possible medications, and so forth. 

Now you are in control of your health, mind, and body. So take care of yourself by continuing your pursuit of a life abuse-free.      

#9- Dieting to Live 

There are hundreds of diets and even more reasons people start them, but did you think about trying a new diet if you're feeling anxious or depressed?  

It's well-known that a healthy diet can promote longevity and overall good health, but it can also reduce anxiety or depression. These two factors affect many survivors of abuse, so it is helpful to research which foods are good and bad for anxiety, depression, or whatever emotional challenges you face.  

Try natural remedies for anxiety or panic attacks like drinking more tea and eating dark chocolate instead of coffee or milk chocolate.

Exercising can also reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. You can join a gym, take a yoga class, or jog with a friend to easily enjoy a boost of feel-good endorphins anytime you need one.   

Please remember to check with your health care provider when making new diet changes such as exercise and nutritional adjustments, especially if you are taking medications. 

#10- Self-Protection and Self-Defense 

Although domestic abuse is the most prevalent form of abuse, we should ALWAYS take preventative measures to avoid or reduce the chance of being attacked/assaulted because the fact is that there are people who have ulterior motives. 

Assaults/attacks of any kind can come from loved ones, associates, or strangers, hence the significant importance of this section. 

Rape, abuse, and unmeasurable amounts of violence have been imposed on women for decades. The rise of feminists was formed to raise awareness and adjust unjust systems of bias based on gender. However, men can be victims and allies too, so it is important to include all genders when discussing the need for self-protection, especially as abuse survivors. 

We should be able to live free of abusive people and events. But, more importantly, we all have the right to defend ourselves from danger, even if that danger is coming from a loved one.  

How you choose to invoke your right of self-protection will come down to laws in your area, physical capabilities, cost, training, and finally, the mental ability to follow through with the tactic that is needed to survive, whether by using de-escalation tactics like humor or counter intimidation or if absolutely required, physical combat (fighting). 

The critical thing to remember is that laws fluctuate from state to state, so you must research what weapons are legal for your individual use. Meaning, for instance, you must be of legal age to carry and use weapons, or in most states, ex-felons are generally prohibited from being around weapons of any kind. 

Knowing what you can have in your possession will save you legal difficulties should you be caught carrying illegal weapons. 

Next, you must familiarize yourself with self-defense tactics and tools best suited for your mental, physical, and financial capabilities.   

There are books, websites, and specialists that can better prepare you both mentally and physically for using self-defense. 

A rule to follow is to fight ONLY when you must defend yourself or a loved one from being attacked (or assaulted). Fighting should be your last resort because regardless of training, physical confrontations are unpredictable and dangerous.      

Self-protection can also include using video surveillance, non-lethal (legal) weapons, or self-defense training.

Always keep some (legal) form of protection in the home, on the road, and on your body. Attackers will not announce their intent, and it's not safe to assume they will not intentionally (or unintentionally) seriously hurt or kill you. 

For safety in the home, consider these options:  

  • Digital security- It's well known that you need digital protection to protect you against viruses if you use the internet, but survivors especially need to be cautious when online.  

 Survivors of abuse may worry that an abuser can track, monitor, or stalk them via their online activities, which is, unfortunately, possible. Your abuser may know all your personal information, so online stalking can very well become a problem. However, it can be easily and affordably remedied. 

Take steps to protect yourself, like immediately changing passwords that your abuser may have had access to at any time. 

Please do not use any information they can easily guess would be your password like your birthday or pets' name. 

Do not disclose your personal information freely online. Social media platforms allow us to express ourselves freely, but many people share private information such as email addresses, phone numbers, and birthdays, which can be dangerous. 

Follow recommendations from whatever digital security provider you have, such as changing passwords as needed or removing shared digital information, and please refrain from exposing personal information online.  

  • Guard dog- Dogs can be specifically trained to protect you or your property. 

 Online classes, books, websites, and even podcasts offer advice, tips, and tricks to help you train your dog. 

It is no longer assumed that one breed surpasses another in protection as it has been seen that even tiny chihuahuas can scare off intruders. 

Please speak to a professional breeder or trainer for more details about which breed would best fit your home, needs, and budget.  

  • Alarm systems- Once alarm systems were expensive and hard to operate. Now you have affordable and easy-to-use options for the home, car, or on your body systems. 

Personal alarms can be worn like a bracelet or clipped onto a garment, and when the button is activated, a siren-like alarm sounds, signaling you need help. 

Home security cameras can be purchased for under $100 and monitored from your cell phone. In addition, many alarms now allow you to record and (or) speak directly to an intruder like Ring security systems.  

  • Gated community- Gated communities provide layers of security.

Gated communities have features that restrict access from the public by using walls, fences, or gates. These communities are typical for providing additional security measures like security lights, warning signs, on-sight gate attendants, surveillance cameras, and personal codes. 

However, more features like on sight armed guards, motion detectors, canine patrol services, and sophisticated security alarm systems are available in upscale locations. 

Shop around online or by physically viewing the locations to compare the benefits and cost. Do it in the evenings or over the weekend to see how active the residents are but ensure you also research the area for criminal activity when reviewing (or shopping around) for a safe community. 

Please ALWAYS remember to research and verify information concerning aspects of these areas, such as additional amenity charges or fees and terms of your agreements that usually have stipulations that should be reviewed before signing any agreements/contracts of any kind.  


Some people suggest that gated communities are unsafe because the illusion of security signals that it's safe when danger is unpredictable and usually preys on those who least suspect it, like people in gated communities. 

Although data has shown that burglary crime rates in gated communities have a slight decline compared to neighboring ungated communities, other crimes like intimate partner abuse or violent assaults are still a potential threat. 

Another thing to consider is how well the security team is trained, experienced, and paid. If you automatically assume that (1) the guard at the gate will immediately respond to an attack and (2) that they will be skilled enough to safely access and control a violent offender, please re-evaluate that theory. 

Considering that most security guards work for less than $20.00 per hour (and that's being extremely generous), how likely is it that they will risk their lives to defend yours? 

Not enough studies have been done to concretely verify that gated communities are the absolute best defense against ALL criminal activity, so never assume safety. This is a harsh fact but one we must accept to promote awareness and empower ourselves without relying solely on the hope that a stranger (or the security) will risk their life for yours.    

Research the community's crime rate and area outside of said community when considering moving, but always remember that anyone can commit a crime, so be cautious regardless of the number of gates that promise security. Ask questions about the training and expertise of staff when comparing these communities.     

Empower yourself with every tool and tactic available, layering your means of self-protection with additional measures such as living in a gated community.             

For safety while away from home, consider these options: 

  • Vehicle security cameras- Placing cameras in your car is pretty easy to do as many come with quick attachment tools like clips or suction cups.  

 These cameras can deter attackers or be reliable witnesses in court if necessary.  

  • GPS- 

Allow a loved one or close friend to enable GPS tracking on your GPS tracking unit, such as a cell phone, when you travel alone or if they fear for your safety. 

Set boundaries and detailed guidance (preferably in writing) before an emergency or concern about safety occur. 

Taking measures like those mentioned can help avoid misunderstandings between you and the person entrusted with this private information.  

Additionally, it can educate them on signs to watch for, who to call in case of emergency, how long to wait before calling for help, and so on.   

  • Learn how to recognize signs of potentially dangerous people and try to avoid them when possible. 

An attacker may display aggressive behaviors like staring, getting closer to you even after you step away, or struggling to control their breathing because adrenaline might be increasing, pumping them up for the attack.   

Follow up with a professional who can educate you more about the best self-protection options for your situation. 

Please always remember to follow laws and keep (legal) weapons safely away from children and persons legally or mentally unfit to be around weapons (especially firearms). 

#11- Financial Empowerment

The aftermath of abuse is difficult to bear because abuse affects many aspects of the human condition, from mental endurance to physical distress. So, of course, the idea of financial hardship is the last thing you want to think about; however, it might be a key to regaining independence and strengthening your grip on recovering or healing. 

Having little to no education or training should not deter you from seeking a higher-paying job, career, or even your very own business. There are financial aid programs, scholarships, technical schools (or trade schools) across the country ready to help guide you to financial stability, as well as apprenticeship programs or jobs that have on-the-job training.   

The key is to do your homework before you waste energy applying for a job that you don't really want or lack the requirements. 

Avoid unnecessary letdowns by ensuring you can either meet the requirements for the position or possess other qualities that make up for the loss; you still might get hired with the right attitude.

Read articles, blogs, journals, and learn everything you can about the career choices you have and those you want to pursue.  

Once you have narrowed your search down and learned enough to recognize the best fit for your needs and skills, do the math! 

Calculate which will pay you enough money to be financially independent plus a little extra for side investment opportunities because empowerment begins with having the means to get help when needed. 

Research the job, career, or field of your choice and ensure your resume reflects what the company or school sees as a good fit. Doing things like this is a sure way to start seeing responses quickly. 

#12- Professional Help 

A mental health professional can help you get back on your feet faster after surviving traumatic events like abuse because they can explain your symptoms, treatment, and potential medical needs. Living with unaddressed issues can further delay the healing process, so research and decide if you are getting adequate help or not.  

It's crucial to seek help if you've been experiencing depressive thoughts, anxiety, panic attacks, thoughts of self-harm or thoughts of harming another person, and anything else that involves harm of any kind happening. 

Immediately call 911 for life-threatening emergencies like a suicide attempt, an attempt to hurt others, self-harm, or if you're experiencing any dangerous effects that require help quickly! 

Life can get messy, and we can find ourselves in the most bizarre situations. But, although we cannot control the way other people act, we can control how we react, and that's powerful.  

Remember that the journey you're about to make is not always going to run smoothly, and that's okay. 

When burdens become unbearable, please remind yourself that you can do anything because you've overcome so much already!      

Professionals, educational books, and more tools like the ones previously mentioned may help make life easier for you but ultimately only you have the power to make life what you envision it could be.  


Egan, T. (1995, September 03). The Serene Fortress: A special report.; Many Seek Security in Private Communities . Retrieved from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/1995/09/03/us/the-serene-fortress-a-special-report-many-seek-security-in-private-communities.html Lynn A. Addington & Callie Marie Rennison. (2013, Feb 04). Keeping the Barbarians Outside the Gate? Comparing Burglary Victimization in Gated and Non-Gated Communities, Justice Quarterly. doi:10.1080/07418825.2012.760644

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