by Renee Dunlap, Safe Harbor Board Member
Unfortunately, the scarring from emotional abuse typically lasts a lot longer than that from the physical abuse a victim experiences. I have been very fortunate to have never experienced abuse in my own life, but losing my brother unexpectedly in my early twenties left a scar on my heart that I feel gives me just a glimpse of the emotional scarring that victims may feel. The scar is there, and it is just part of me, but I choose to focus on what I’ve learned from my loss and that painful scar, making the most of my days ahead.
As a sister, I felt guilt at times for not being able to save my brother somehow. And, through my conversations with the victims of domestic violence who I’ve known over the years, they also tend to feel guilt as if they have done something wrong or deserve the abuse they have endured. It breaks my heart to think about these victims being abused and not feeling as if they are able to escape it; and, on top of that, feeling like they have done something to deserve the abuse.
Victims of domestic violence need professional support and guidance, not only in seeking immediate safety, but also in startinng the healing process from the emotional trauma they have endured. Many victims in domestic violence situations have children that are being emotionally scarred from the abuse as well. Without a choice, these children grow up around the violence, living right in the middle of it. They need support as well.
I rode with a few Safe Harbor clients to a Christmas party last year, and I recall one of the children asking her Mom if that “mean man” was ever going to be able find them again. Her mom assured her that he was in jail now and wouldn’t be able to bother them again. I can still hear the sadness and fear in that precious little girl’s voice. They had escaped and found hope at Safe Harbor. That little girl ran around and played at the Christmas party, and I saw a joy that had not been taken away, despite the abuse and trauma they had experienced. It made my day. Her mom was already healing, and so was she.
Thankfully, the physical pains can begin healing as soon as the victim escapes their abuser; but, the emotional scars need more time. That’s why I am so thankful for what Safe Harbor is able to provide to victims in our community. Emotional scars can’t fade away if they aren’t treated properly. Organizations like Safe Harbor help victims heal, both inside and out. I choose to support Safe Harbor, because I have seen firsthand the difference they are making in so many lives.
contributed by Renee Dunlap, Safe Harbor Board Member