15 Lies People (Still) Believe About Loving An Abuse Survivor —​ As Told By One

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15 Lies People (Still) Believe About Loving An Abuse Survivor (As Told By One)
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Love, Sex

Abuse takes many forms. In this article, we focus on emotional/mental abuse, battering, sexual assault/rape, and molestation — although much of the advice can be generalized to meet other categories of abuse.

Abuse can be defined as "a pattern of behavior used by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another.” Domestic abuse and rape are widespread issues which victimizes women disproportionately- although either gender can be affected. 

If you are dating — or thinking of dating — a woman who has been abused in the past, you may have a lot of questions. What should I expect coming into this relationship? How can I help? Is it worth the trouble? 


RELATED: Domestic Violence Isn't Just A Female Issue


If you are a woman with a history of abuse, you may be wondering what myths exist regarding abuse, and how to come to terms with what has happened to you, how to seek help, and wondering if a truly loving relationship is possible for you.

Regardless of why you've come here, it is important to remember that happiness and healing are possible, as well as healthy and fulfilling relationships. 

I have had my share of abusive situations. I believe my proclivity for abuse was set up in childhood, as is very often the case. I grew up in a home where physical and verbal abuse was common among my nuclear family.

I left home at an early age and was not really prepared for the adult world. Even after I managed to stabilize, I remained in an emotionally abusive and codependent relationship in which my partner would sometimes cut off all affection towards me at a whim and leave me crying in a corner by myself — even after begging them for a hug or some sign of compassion.


RELATED: I Was In An Abusive Marriage For 6 Years — And Had No Idea


I've never felt lonelier and more hopeless than at those times. The pain and isolation made me feel like I was staring into a black abyss. After that it became blatant sexual demands in exchange for small things like asking if I could get a lift to work. Requests like these made me feel devalued and certainly not the way a loved one should feel.

Domestic abuse so often occurs behind closed doors where it is veiled by secrecy and shame. The waters are often murky and toxic relationships are rarely one-sided. 

The cultural conversation surrounding rape is especially plagued by stigma, misunderstandings, secrets, and shame. If you are in love with someone who has a history of abuse, it is important to get the facts about such issues, as well as how to support them in order to create the foundations for a mutually fulfilling relationship together.

You can start by knowing these 15 myths about dating a woman who has been abused, (as told by a survivor of abuse):


1. People who have been abused are needy and easy to win over.

If you see a girl with a history of abuse like a low hanging fruit- easy to snatch and have for yourself,- think again. Considering her past experience, she will probably be wary about beginning a new relationship. The fact that she is even ready to date again likely means that she has thought long and hard about what she would like in a man and what to avoid. She can spot warning signs early on.


RELATED: How Predators Groom Women To Love Them


2. You have to be careful with what you say when you're around an abused person.

Although it's true that being abused can make someone sensitive to the way people speak, that doesn't mean a woman who has been abused is unable to hear honesty at all. 

You would do well to take care that your actions match up with your words. "Once bitten, twice shy" is a good way of explaining how she operates. By being able to recognize the red flags of a toxic relationship, she will not put up with any funny business. This does not necessarily mean that she is overly callous, however. Which brings us to our next myth...


3. A person who was abused will always be distrustful and judge you according to other men from their past.

The only reason a girl that has been abused might not trust you at first is that they are protecting themselves from further possible harm. Deep down, they desire a fulfilling, healthy relationship just like most people.

In fact, someone that has grown up in an unhealthy home environment — such as is often the case with people that live with narcissists due to codependency issues- may have an overt need to please and receive validation from others due to their attachment trauma. Lisa A. Romano, an author and life coach which specializes in talking about escaping from narcissistic abuse, describes attachment trauma as the feelings of disconnect and abandonment that stem from early childhood on part of the dysfunctional behavior of one or more of the individual's parents.

She illustrates that if Mom and Dad are shouting at each other, the child "perceives the anger as a disconnect from love." Romano goes on to explain that throughout her adult life she became overly concerned with receiving validation from others.


4. Abuse survivors have difficulty feeling comfortable in their own skin (forever).

It's true that new situations can create a form of anxiety. For example, she could not enjoy a party without being full of anxiety wondering what other people thought of her and seeking out attention to feel happy. Narcissists feed on this sense of neediness that forces their victim to continually work to please them. Romano states that if you want to stop attracting narcissists, you must learn how to set healthy boundaries, or how to say "No."


5. Abuse victims are too broken to trust you completely.

A woman who was abused wants nothing more than to be able to trust their partner fully. She has probably spent her entire life trying to receive validation from others that she so longs for because it was never given to her as a child. She longs for the warmth and security of a true love that can only flourish with mutual respect and the maintenance of healthy boundaries.


RELATED: Thoughts On Ray Rice & The Secret Life Of Abused Women


6. They are weak/somehow to blame for allowing themselves to be abused. 

It is wrong to say people who end up abused are somehow weak. Many women that find themselves in abusive relationships are confident, strong and career-oriented in every other aspect of their life. Abusers do not necessarily always go after weak and vulnerable people. This is because they so often crave power, and defeating someone strong is attractive to them. 

Furthermore, there are many reasons why a person might not leave an abusive relationship. For one, they simply might not know what a healthy relationship is. They do not know when their boundaries are crossed, because they do not know their boundaries.


7. They will always go back to the person that abused them in the past. 

The cycle of abuse is difficult to break. An abused woman might fear retaliation by their partner for leaving or be helplessly codependent. They might have low self-esteem because they have started to believe the negative things their abuser said about them. The embarrassment of being abused is another reason why people might not leave or go back to an old situation. They might feel shame for being in that situation or worry about the judgments of friends and families.


8. They are incapable of healthy love. 

Many stay for the same reasons other people stay in bad relationships — because they love the other person. Their partner might promise they will change, or act abusively only at certain times, and nice at others (just like Jekyll and Hyde).

The natural tides of a relationship can be even more intense than usual, like a thunderstorm out at sea. You'll have good times and bad times. But the bad times get really, really bad. The continual upheavals and intermittent periods of calm make it hard to recognize the abuse clearly. 


9. They are mentally unstable.

It is true that sexual and domestic abuse can very often lead to mental illness such as PTSD if left untreated. Many may need counseling. It is important that the woman, first of all, is able to leave the abusive situation. Secondly, they must relinquish feelings of guilt or responsibility for their abuser's actions.

They must have new social support networks in place that do not condone battering, rape, or mental/emotional abuse of any kind. Successful rehabilitation includes encouraging the client to freely express their emotions, reducing social isolation, the breakdown of social isolation and implementing alternatives to being emotionally/fiscally reliant on their partner. 

Not everyone that experiences abuse will end up with a mental disorder. However, even if they do still struggle with their past, you should know that successful recovery from previous trauma and the avoidance of future trauma is a very real possibility with the right support networks in place (this includes you!)


10. Abuse survivors are potential liars because they didn't talk about it when the event occurred.

Even if she came out about her rape/abuse well past the time it occurred, does not mean she is lying about it. Considering the stigma and misplaced shame that occurs with these events, it is not uncommon for people to keep it a secret for many years and sometimes even a lifetime. 


RELATED: To The Women Who Lie About Being Abused: You Hurt The REAL Victims


11. You should avoid talking about their abuse with them. 

 "Your secrets make you sick," says Rachel Romano- childhood sexual abuse survivor and anti-abuse advocate on shows such as Tedx and Oprah. She shares how a friend of hers told her she should stop talking about her experience because it would look bad on her and her career. "I will never stop talking about it," states Rena. She acknowledges that one of the biggest things holding victims back is the stigma and shame that surrounds things like rape, especially child molestation. Society would rather brush it under the rug. 

However, the first step in getting help is acknowledging it out loud to someone you can trust. Having your partner speak to a counselor is an important step in their healing. Do not push the issue of talking about it directly with your partner, but don't shut them down when they do open up about it. Many people who have been abused can go a lifetime without admitting it. 

Lydia Ward, a Childhood sexual abuse survivor and ambassador for the UK based charity Safeline.Org, says that once you start talking about it "you begin to take back control because you're not hanging on to the secret anymore." She insists that the most important thing you can do when someone opens up to you about their abuse is LISTEN. Be more concerned with listening, than what is the right thing to say in response to their story. "what they need is to hear themselves say the words of what happened to them" she continues.

She adds that another helpful tip, and what pleasantly surprised her from the person she opened up to, is if the listener responds in a positive way by congratulating them on surviving or for their bravery in telling you. 


12. They will never be capable of enjoying intimacy.

Before worrying about this, you should first question your definition of intimacy. In her talk entitled "Intimacy After Trauma," rape survivor and 'intimologist' Dr. Kat Smith talks about the many different aspects of intimacy that go undiscussed.

Dr. Smith illustrates that intimacy is so much more than just sex. The important thing for someone who has been abused is to give them time to trust you and to show them those other aspects of closeness such warmth, affection, and being receptive to them. She explains that one of the reasons why childhood abuse continues to be so prevalent is because we do not have exercise intimacy in both our families and love relationships.

Therefore, the adults in the child's life fail to protect them. In order to ensure that people around you are safe and happy, you must engage with them and spend meaningful time with them (no, this does not mean eating together around the TV!).

She states, "Just how we learn and grow in our lives, in our careers, we have to do so in our relationships." She notes how little time we spend on nurturing our relationships in the modern age, and says that they, "like any living thing, with neglect can wither and die." Even a person that has gone through abuse can blossom in a relationship with someone that takes the time necessary to establish trust and shows that they truly care. 


13. They are promiscuous, seductive or "asking for it."

This is one of the most problematic myths that is perpetrated by the general public (and men especially) regarding rape. It is the idea that a woman who was raped somehow "had it coming." Perhaps her clothing was immodest or she had been flirting with the perpetrator. The truth is, the way the victim talks or dresses has no relevance to the fact that she was raped. The important thing is CONSENT. If the victim does not provide their consent, it is sexual assault. 

Especially in the case of children this claim has no relevance either. Young children do not yet have the mental faculties for exercising their sexuality. Oftentimes, their molester will reward them with treats if the child does sexual behaviors. Therefore, it becomes a conditioned or learned behavior for the child to act sexually in aims for survival. This is pure exploitation and seen often in cases of human trafficking.


14. They need you to protect/heal them.

The only one that can heal your partner is themselves. You can encourage them to seek counseling and should seek to be a positive and loving support in their life. However, in order to avoid any cycles of codependency, it is important that she can feel fairly comfortable by herself before entering the relationship. 


15. They will always be a victim, and a part of them will always broken. 

Lydia Ward says it bests when she states:

“As I stand before you today I hope that you see that I walk my talk sexual abuse and rape is not your identity it is not the definition of you. You have a choice. As an adult I made that choice to change my future and stop living in a past that made me feel broken inside. It has not been an easy journey. I have cried. I have raged. and I have broken my heart multiple times with all different sorts of grief as I have tried to heal myself and recapture what got taken from me. so it's a grueling journey but it is worth every single step because as I stand before you today I am stronger and more powerful than my abusers. This really is an opportunity for us all. Sexual abuse and rape can be the making not the breaking of you.”


RELATED: 7 Signs You're Being Quietly Abused (And Don't Even Know It)

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