December 5, 2023 Dec 05, 2023 10 min read
If you are in need of immediate support due to active abuse, call 911 or find survivor-focused crisis resources in your area through the Go Thrive Go search tool.
Abuse victims and survivors often struggle with feelings of isolation during and after experiences of abuse. These feelings are sometimes caused an internal sense of unworthiness or shame, while other times isolation may be imposed by an active abuser.
Regardless of the type of isolation you’re struggling with as an abuse victim or survivor, this article will help you better understand your circumstances and offer ways to cope with feeling isolated.
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First, it’s important to determine the nature of the isolation you’re experiencing. Depending on your circumstances, your isolation may be self-imposed, situational, or imposed by others.
In many cases, survivors of abuse, assault, and violence struggle with self-isolation due to shame and mental health struggles that may arise in the wake of abuse. When struggling with feelings of shame or guilt, we might instinctively isolate ourselves from friends and community. Unfortunately, self-isolation quickly magnifies feelings of shame and can deteriorate our mental health even further if not addressed.
Isolation from community can also occur for victims and survivors whose friends and family are not sympathetic to or supportive of the needs and struggles of survivors. For example, a survivor may lack the community support and connection they need if their friends and family engage in victim blaming. To learn all about victim blaming, check out “Victim Blaming and How to Cope.”
Finally, a sexual abuse or intimate partner abuse victim in an ongoing abusive situation may experience literal isolation imposed by their abuser. This often occurs in abusive dynamics within families and intimate partnerships.
Abuser-imposed isolation involves an abusive partner disallowing a victim from being in contact with family, friends, coworkers, etc. Some victims may even be kept from having a job or engaging in any activities outside of the home. Coping with this type of isolation is complicated and, in many cases, dangerous.
For help getting out of an abusive situation, read our Safety Planning Checklist for Fleeing an Abusive Relationship.
Regardless of the type of isolation you’re experiencing currently, the following coping strategies can help.
If you are in an active crisis or abuse situation and any of these strategies do not feel safe for you try, use your best judgment to keep yourself as safe as possible. Unfortunately, due to the nature of abuser-imposed isolation, some or all of these coping mechanisms may be unrealistic for victims navigating active abuse situations.
Crisis and support hotlines are designed for victims and survivors to access connection and practical support when needed. While you might assume hotlines are reserved exclusively for crisis situations, they also provide support to victims and survivors who simply need someone to talk to.
If you’re feeling isolated during or in the wake of an experience of intimate partner abuse, sexual abuse, or sexual assault, consider reaching out to a support hotline for help. People who work for hotline services are specially trained to listen with compassion and empathy while also providing important resources and information when relevant. Crisis and support hotlines are entirely confidential and anonymous in most cases, although information about confirmed or suspected child abuse will likely be reported to relevant authorities.
There are many crisis and support hotlines available depending on where you live and what type of situation you’re dealing with, but some key organizations to take note of are listed below:
For a full list of crisis and support lines available in Canada, use the Go Thrive Go search tool and search for “Crisis Lines.”
Shame often hinders us from reaching out for support when we need it due to the stigma faced by abuse victims and survivors. However, if we can overcome our shame, we often find that people are more ready and willing to support us than we might think. Whether you’re dealing with self-isolation after abuse or isolation imposed upon you by someone else, reaching out to trusted friends and family can help you strengthen your support network and feel less alone.
If you’re struggling with a sense of isolation during or after abuse, encourage yourself to reach out to the ones you trust, especially when you’re feeling at your lowest. Being reminded that we have people in our lives who are ready and willing to support us when we need it most is by far one of the best antidotes to isolation.
Another helpful way to feel less alone when surviving or recovering from abuse is to engage with survivor-focused content and media. This could mean listening to survivor stories via podcasts, following survivor-focused accounts on social media, or reading books written by people who have overcome their abusive circumstances.
Although these examples can’t resolve the underlying problem of isolation, they can help us remember that we are not alone in our experiences and struggles. Feeling less alone can foster a sense of strength, courage, and empowerment as you navigate your survival and recovery process.
Participating in support groups with other victims and survivors is an excellent way to build community, feel less alone, and bolster your ability to cope with and improve your circumstances. Support groups like these are especially helpful for people who don’t have friends or family they can trust or rely on for emotional support.
If it’s safe to do so in your circumstances, consider finding a support group for victims and survivors in your area or online. Depending on the social services available near you, you may be able to find a support group with no charge for participants. Online, more options are available, but online support groups are more likely to require a participation fee.
For a list of organizations offering survivor support groups in Canada, use the Go Thrive Go search tool and search for “Support Groups.”
As with most elements of the recovery process, working with a trained therapist or counselor is an amazing way to support yourself during or after an experience of abuse. While a therapeutic relationship cannot and should not replace connection to community, having a trusted and reliable connection with a therapist can help combat feelings of isolation.
To learn more about finding a trauma therapist, check out our article “How to Find a Trauma Therapist.” We also have checklists and guides available to help you find the therapist who’s right for you – check out the “What to Look for in a Trauma Therapist” checklist and “Tools for Survivors: Essential Questions to Ask a New Therapist.”
Dealing with isolation as a victim or survivor of abuse can feel daunting and disheartening. However, there are ways to cope with isolation in the moment and build meaningful connections and networks to reduce the likelihood of feeling isolated in the future. Regardless of how you navigate this period of isolation, remember that you are entirely deserving of connection, community, support, and compassion from others.
Feeling isolated during or after abuse is extremely common for abuse victims and survivors for numerous reasons. While many survivors struggle with self isolation due to shame and various mental health factors, others may face isolation due to literal disconnection from family and community or imposed isolation by an active abuser. Regardless of the type of isolation a victim or survivor is experiencing, there are practical ways to cope and find connection. Some coping strategies include using crisis and support hotlines, seeking out victim and survivor support groups, working with a therapist, reaching out to trusted friends and family, and engaging with survivor-focused content and media.
Dana Anastasia (they/them) is an independent writer, editor, podcaster, and artist. With a degree in interdisciplinary sociology and a background in domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy, Dana brings a keen awareness of victim and survivor needs and experiences to their work. Learn more at www.danaanastasia.com.