Advocates, social workers, therapists, and lawyers all have their own kind of training, knowledge, and skillsets that can help you get out of an abusive situation and find your feet again. But they don’t replace the emotional intimacy of having someone you love and trust cheering you on and reminding you that you’re loved, wanted, and treasured.
If you have the support of someone or some people you trust:
Your friends and family, however you understand those words, care about you and want to help. You’re not being a burden by asking for their support, and in many cases they’ll be happy to feel like they’re helping you! You’re not obligated to tell them any more information than you’re comfortable sharing, and hotlines are available 24/7 for extra help, but it’s okay to ask someone you trust for their support.
Remember: even if the person says ‘no’ to a particular request you make, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have asked or that you made a mistake somehow. They may simply be unavailable or lack the resources for that particular request, but that doesn’t mean they can’t support you in other ways or that you’ve done anything wrong.
If you do not have someone or some people you feel that you can trust:
In addition to the professional resources already described, there are other things you can do to find more personal human connection.
- Attend a support group (you can start looking for one through a local domestic violence agency or other nonprofit)
- Attend local community events
- Join a craft or hobbyist group (painting, quilting, woodcarving – whatever you’re interested in!)
- Volunteer at a place that lets you feel like you’re doing good work (e.g. dogwalking at your nearby animal shelter), allows you to interact with the same people on a regular basis, and where the risk of being emotionally triggered is low
- Participate in online survivor discussion and support forums
Remember: developing feelings for another support group attendee, penpal, or online friend is common because they often seem like a safe person who understands what you’re going through. However, we strongly recommend not getting involved with them, especially not right away and not when you’re both seeking services. We encourage you to be consistently reflecting on your own well-being and motivations. Take plenty of time to get to know the person as they are before making any decisions – if it’s truly “meant to be,” then they’ll understand you wanting to take the time to heal before getting into another relationship.
Not ready for the pressures of in-person social interaction?
Taking a laptop, journal, sketchpad, or book to a coffee shop can be a good way of moving out of isolation and feeling like a part of a community without having the direct pressure of deeper participation. Other options might be book readings at bookshops, poetry performances at small venues, and other lower-stakes public areas and events.
There are also programs that facilitate penpal communications. Prisons and military groups in particular are common, although not at all the only programs out there. For some people, writing letters or emails is a lower-stakes way of interacting with new people.