Re-victimisation, unfortunately, has consistent evidence. Up to 75% of adults that experienced abuse as a child, also reported experiencing abuse as an adult.
When I first entered therapy, I felt like I “attracted” people who were abusive, I described a series of thorny experiences. A therapist explained to me the concept of re-victimization and that aspects of my personality had been forged, based on trauma and abuse.
My parents are both alcoholics, who engaged in domestic violence and were physically, emotionally and verbally abusive to myself and my siblings. I learnt from them that love was violence and abuse, that I was worthless and that I did not have any right to have needs or choices. I did not learn healthy or appropriate boundaries.
Growing up, I knew my parents had an addiction which was abnormal, but I didn’t understand that the verbal abuse, physical abuse and general lack of respect was abnormal. I naively though that when I left home, in order to make a better life for myself I would steer clear of alcoholics or other addicts and my life would be great.
Unfortunately, I became a repeated victim of abuse in other forms, as I failed to recognize that it was actually abuse. My first year away from home at university saw me living in a house with 4 other friends, I didn’t notice it at the time but we all were children of addicts, and we all had excessive trauma. None of us knew anything about healthy boundaries or posititive conflict resolution so the whole year was dynamite. There were a series of arguments, misunderstandings and dramas. It was a disaster, but I had never anticipated it to be, I never saw any red flags when I was friend’s with these people because I thought their behaviour was normal. The 5 of us treated one another appallingly, myself included.
My first boyfriend was also, surprise surprise, a child of an alcoholic and his parents had abandoned him when he was a teenager. He criticized me so much and constantly tried to change everything about me, he played mind games and was very passive aggressive, he blamed everything wrong in our relationship on me and never took responsibility for his actions. I spent the whole relationship feeling not good enough and trying to please him. I didn’t understand that the way he was treating me was wrong.
I forged similar relationships with three consecutive employers; I was scrutinized, criticized and the victim of many mind games. I agreed to long unpaid hours, was manipulated and verbally and emotionally abused. Again, I didn’t understand the way I was being treated was abnormal.
Between my boyfriend, my flat and my work situation I became incredibly anxious and depressed. I ended up in therapy; where I learnt about respectful relationships and boundaries. That was nearly six years ago. I moved out of my flat, quit my job and broke up with my boyfriend. It’s been a hard journey but I realised recently I’ve broken the pattern, now that I understand healthy relationships I don’t find myself surrounded by abusive people. I feel lucky I’ve got to this point and I hope I can demonstrate to my own children what real love looks like (not the abuse I thought was love). I’m breaking the cycle and it starts with me.