It sounds lofty, and it is. But my resolution this year is just to do anything I personally can to advocate, educate, and help survivors get free of abuse. Join me?
Some years after my abuse experience–yes, it took years!–I made myself a very serious commitment that I would leave any situation or relationship that was abusive to me. That included work, that included family, that included friends, that included romantic relationships. Which is not to say that I never found myself in any of those situations; sadly, that was not true. But once I realized they were abusive, or the first red flags appeared, I did what I committed to. I left. This commitment has cost me a lot–people I loved, relationships I cared about, employment that meant much to me. However, I remain committed to my promise to love myself first and say no to abuse.
Fulfilling that promise required years of therapy, listening to thousands of stories, and experiencing my own personal consequences. Some of it was the result of support and of privilege, as well. It required holding as an ironclad value that I deserve loving and respectful treatment. Sometimes it required being broke, lonely, or rejected. And I have to say that I often had to do these things despite myself. That is, despite my feelings, which were telling me to do the very opposite. As a behaviorist, I strongly believe that you can act first and let your feelings follow; in fact, sometimes we must do this. It is how any addict stays sober, because cravings return. It is how survivors can stay safe.
We can act in our own best interest, survivors, despite our feelings to the contrary. And once we start doing that, something unexpected happens. Our sense of dignity and self-worth returns, alongside self-respect; later, this blossoms to self-love. Survivors are never responsible for their own abuse, even if they return to those relationships. It takes the average survivor 7 attempts at leaving to stay gone, and often despite threats to their life, safety, and wellbeing. But our resolve, with support, can strengthen, and we can do that which we thought we never could have: Live an abuse-free life.