Building a Support System
Abusers often try to isolate their partners from others to maximize their control. They often try to make you believe that you are to blame, and that you are a bad person. It is important to talk to others to get reality checks and to be reminded that you are not a bad person. Think of your support system as the network of people you can rely on for friendship, support, information, and services. Your support system can include close friends and family as well as professionals who provide counseling, legal services, medical care etc. Reach out to several people who are inclined to be accepting and supportive. Your local domestic violence organization can be an important part of your support network. Reach out and accept the help that is offered.
Don't tell your abuser about your supporters if you think that they will try to isolate you from them. Many survivors find that by the time they are ready to talk about the abuse, many of their friends and family have been isolated from them. Sometimes this is due to an abuser's intentional manipulation. Other times it's due to friends and family who have become discouraged or frightened after witnessing the abuse. Many survivors must build or rebuild their entire support network; this can feel overwhelming. It might be helpful to break it down into steps and ask yourself this series of questions:
- What family members am I close to right now?
- What friends am I in touch with right now?
- What medical, wellness, or mental health professionals do I have in my life now?
- What other support do I have in my life right now? (This may include a faith-based community, support group, 12-step group, club or activity.)
For the Future:
- What family members would I like to be close with?
- What friends would I like to be in touch with?
- What professionals would I like to have?
- What other types of support would I like to develop?
Once you've done this simple inventory, begin the process of reaching out to people. You might also consider prioritizing some over others. For example, prioritize connecting with a counselor if you are feeling overwhelmed, aren't sleeping or eating, or having symptoms of anxiety or other mental health issues. By breaking down the job of building a support network into manageable steps, the process can be less overwhelming and often more rewarding because of the potential of deepening your relationships. Remember, many people may not know what you need or how to react if you tell them about the violence you are experiencing or have experienced. Some people will be open to hearing from you about what you need, how they can be helpful, and what is helpful to say (and not). Others may not be open or able to support you around the domestic violence, but may actually be supportive in other ways. Allow them to support you in whatever way they are able.
You might refer members of your support network to the section for people concerned about someone who is being abused. These pages have information for family members and friends, professionals, and others on the best ways to support you in your recovery and healing.
As you are building a support network, you will be gaining the perspective of others and broadening your own perspective about your situation.
At Safe Passage, our hotline is available to anyone from your support network who would like some suggestions on positive ways to support you in your journey.