Relief and Grief After Leaving An Abuser

Most people, even those with little knowledge of the dynamics of domestic violence, would imagine that a survivor of domestic violence would feel a certain amount of relief once she has left the abusive relationship.  And even understand that the relief could quite possibly be tainted by the fear that the harm that he is capable of inflicting upon her may not have come to an end, despite the fact that she has physically removed herself from the relationship.  Less people would, I think, be imagining that the loss of an abusive relationship could stir up feelings of grief for a survivor.  Surely, she will not miss a man who abused her?!

In her 2010 paper, ‘Loss, Grief, and Domestic Violence’, Concetta Hollinger lists the losses that a victim of domestic violence could experience when she finds herself in an abusive relationship.  For example: Independence, (the victim is now controlled); Support from family and friends, (the abuser isolates his partner); Trust, (the abuser has betrayed that); The happy life and happy ending that she always dreamed she’d have.  Source:,%20Grief,%20and%20Domestic%20Violence,%20Concetta%20Hollinger.pdf  Pages 30 – 32.  Retrieved 02/16/20.

Taking Concetta Hollinger’s ideas to a time further down the line – hopefully! – I would like to suggest a couple of losses that a survivor of domestic violence may experience and grieve for when she is first out of the abusive relationship.  It could well be that whilst in the abusive relationship, despite the horrors, she kept hoping that things would improve, that the abuse would stop, that he would “come to his senses” and start treating her as she deserved, start loving her.  So, now out of that relationship, she has lost that hope.  That hope will never now become a reality.

The other loss that may surprise a lot of people, and understandably so, is that she will mourn the loss of the abuser.  Not the abuse and not the abusive part of him, but the parts of him that she enjoyed and loved.  Such as: His sense of humor; the in-jokes that they shared; the adventures they went on together; the pleasurable, everyday routines they experienced; “their” songs, that they would sing along to together; their sexual relationship.  The “Dr. Jekyll side” of him.  Losing that side of him brought her grief.  That side of him was very real, and it existed alongside the “Mr. Hyde side” of him.  The two sides never showing themselves at the same time!

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When Orders of Protection Don’t Protect!

Is there actually any point in a victim of Domestic Violence obtaining an Order of Protection against the person who has physically assaulted her?  We know that, despite an Order of Protection being a court order for a person to stay away from another person, sometimes a violent person will ignore this order.  Could it be, in some cases, that an Order of Protection is an additional motivating factor for a perpetrator of Domestic Violence to cause harm to his ex-partner?  For example, is his anger fueled by the fact that the object of his former control has made a clear gesture that she no longer wants him in her life?

There are times when an Order of Protection is in place and not only does the perpetrator of Domestic Violence not remain the required minimum, physical distance from his victim, but he gets close enough to her to assault and murder her.  One such case occurred in Durham, North Carolina, in November of last year, 2019.  Victoria St. Hillaire, who was just 28 years of age, and a mother, was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend, Lequintin Ford, “as she arrived for work at UNC Family Medicine in Durham.”  Source:  Retrieved 01/20/20.  The shooter then turned the gun on himself and killed himself with it.  It should be noted that this is not the first time that Lequintin Ford had violated an Order of Protection provided in an attempt to keep him away from Victoria and her family.

What are the circumstances under which an Order of Protection will achieve what it has set out to achieve?  I.e. Protection.  And when will it not?  This is surely a key factor in determining how victims of Domestic Violence in the future could possibly have a better chance of surviving once they have left an abusive partner.  As Kathy Hodges, deputy director of the Durham Crisis Response Center points out: “If this is an offender who doesn’t want to go to jail, who cares about their reputation and wants to look good in the community, it’s going to be a whole lot more meaningful for them than for someone who really doesn’t care if they get arrested.”  Source:  Retrieved 01/20/20.

I had Orders of Protection against my abusive ex-boyfriend.  Each of the three points given by Kathy Hodges in the statement we have just read above were true for my abusive ex-boyfriend.  I.e. He did not want to go to jail or prison; he desperately wanted to keep up the fake, attractive appearance that he had successfully created both in the religious community to which he was affiliated and in the workplace; and he certainly had a lot to lose in relation to his career path, since he had graduated from medical school and was in the process of applying for a spot on a residency program.  Victoria St. Hillaire’s ex-boyfriend did not want to go to jail either.  However, for reasons unknown to me, he additionally had a desire to inflict the ultimate harm upon Victoria that was so consuming that he was willing to also end his own life.  Rest in peace, Victoria.

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