Deciding to get out of a toxic relationship is the first step to concentrating on building a better and safer life for yourself.
Many women stay in abusive relationships for several reasons. We spoke to the founder of Lifecounsel, Gerrie Pretorius, to explain these reasons and provide advice on how a woman can leave an abusive relationship.
“The abuser does everything he can to regain control and keep the victim in the relationship. He may act as if nothing has happened, or he may turn on the charm. This peaceful honeymoon phase may give the victim hope that the abuser has really changed this time,” says Pretorius, who has worked as a counsellor for over seven years.
“People at times are hopeful that things will change and they hope the relationship will improve. The abusers usually manipulate or even threaten their partners into staying. They say thing like ‘you will never find anyone else to love you’. ‘I will kill you if you leave me’. They might stay for the children, for financial reasons or because of low self-esteem… they feel that they deserve to be treated like that and that they don’t deserve better or are blinded behind their emotions and the fact that they love them,” he adds.
The unfortunate part is, many of these abused women lose their lives due to abuse. In 2016, City Press reported that every six hours, a woman is killed by her current or former intimate partner.
But abuse doesn’t have to take your life or destroy it.
“Deciding to leave is usually a very difficult step to take but is crucial. You must understand you cannot change the abuser’s behaviour. Understanding that you cannot help or change your partner is very important. The abuser needs to seek professional help to deal with the problem so the best thing to do is to walk way and remove yourself from the situation,” says Pretorius.
But how does one prepare mentally and emotionally for the change?
According to Pretorius, “understanding that your abuser’s behaviour is not your responsibility is important and you can walk away without feeling guilty. Through counselling we help people prepare themselves emotionally and cognitively to take the necessary first steps. One must keep perspective that things will be okay and one will find a new normal again. One step at a time.”
Pretorius adds that victims should talk to someone or a professional about their situation.
“Talking about it is usually the first step in hearing yourself and better understanding your situation. At times you have to get the authorities involved like the police or getting a restraining order. Find support with family, church, friends or work friends, in case if you need a place to stay for some time to figure things out,” he concludes.
Remember to stick to your decision. Once you have made the decision to leave, don’t let your partner manipulate you into staying.