Let me tell you a story about shame

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This story is about a 40-something woman who has spent years, more than a decade in fact, feeling deeply shamed about so many things because of domestic abuse.

The 40-something woman is me, by the way, in case you were wondering.

In the 5 years that I spent in my DV situation, I lied about what was happening, I hid what we were going through, and I completely ignored the effects it was having on my mental health, physical health, finances, my son and even my dog.

Domestic violence is any emotional, physical, or sexual abuse in a couple relationship or between family members. I just thought I was in an awful relationship with an awful person, it was my son who named it about a year after it ended. He was telling me about a piece he had written for an English assignment at school, and it was angry in its content. I (half-jokingly) said he should be careful; teachers will flag that as safeguarding and think he was abused or neglected. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “But I WAS emotionally abused, for 5 years”. Can you imagine the strength that took him to say? Can you imagine the shame I felt, hearing that?

As shameful and awful as I felt, I think it was the first time that I realised how bad everything had been. Shame is the biggest reason so many people in DV situations don’t leave, you have to justify it to someone. And what if nobody believes you? What if they do and you have to acknowledge all these painful things that happened to you? What if you have to name it and it hurts so much you don’t know what to do next?

So many of my clients feel ashamed that they stayed in the relationship for as long as they did, or that they somehow deserved it because they weren’t good enough to earn the love of the person abusing them. That is what makes narcissistic abuse all the more powerful, the abuser relies on keeping the abuse hidden to use as leverage.

Shame is a natural response to feeling powerless. It can also be lessened by sharing the burden of how it felt at the time and how it still feels now.


“Shame dies when stories are told are in safe spaces.” ~ Ann Voskamp


There is a reason this quote is on my website. I honestly believe it is true.

I have been there, I have sat in therapy and spoken about my experiences, about my shame, had things named with terms I never thought I would have to hear reflected back to me and yes, it hurt. But it was also validating. Because those things couldn’t hurt me anymore.

Studying to become a therapist so that I could work with other survivors of domestic violence has been one of the most empowering things I have ever done. There is nothing more validating than talking to someone who knows what it feels like and can keep reminding you that none of this is your fault. Nobody deserves to be abused, domestically or otherwise.

I see you because I am you. You CAN heal from trauma and abuse. Shame is a natural response to feeling powerless, take back your power.

~ Lisa

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