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When I Stopped Blaming Myself as an Abuse Survivor With a Disability

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Editor’s Note: If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by clicking “chat now” or calling  1-800-799-7233.

In life, there’s no real way of telling what we have in store for us. I don’t think anyone anticipates that one day they, or someone close to them, could become ill and have very little chance of fully recovering. Unfortunately there are people who don’t have others’ best interests at heart and who may try to gain as much as they can from your situation. Sometimes we can be so exhausted from fighting, or even so glad someone noticed us, that we are vulnerable to opportunistic people. Of course not everyone is like that, but in my experience, three things can really make people show their ugly side — sex, money and drugs. Any combination of these can spell a horrible situation indeed.

The thing is, people usually don’t think abuse happens outside the stereotype. You know the story, little old dear living at home alone, carers (or even family and supposed friends) come in and some of them help themselves to their purse or other valuable properties. Or worse, they physically assault the person. The sad reality is that sometimes abuse gets ignored or swept under the rug because of the victim feeling embarrassed, or because they​ have dementia and don’t know it’s happening. But abuse isn’t just happening to older vulnerable adults. It also happens to younger people with disabilities, and to the victims, it is just as distressing.

My message to anyone who has been abused, especially by greedy individuals who have taken advantage of them, is this:

There is no shame in being vulnerable due to disabilities. It isn’t something we did out of choice, and the real shame should lie at the feet of those who took that opportunity and tried to gain from our situation.

Abuse takes a lot of different forms. Obviously there is physical abuse, like being pushed around, struck or attacked by someone. Then there is verbal abuse. I can say from my own experience that being bullied and degraded by someone, whether it be “telling off” or outright being told I was “useless” or “stupid” can leave you with deeper scars than anything else.

I let someone emotionally bully me because I had been told that due to my disabilities, no one could possibly love me and I was “damaged goods.” Sometimes this person would go further and bully me for my pain medicine, as they thought I was unworthy of it and made sure I believed it, too.

Then I come to financial abuse. This one was particularly distressing for me, as money or things would mysteriously vanish and I’d be almost chided into believing they had not been there or that I was mistaken. “You never put it down… Did you?” Or I would face patronizing comments like “Oh bless her, she’s just so confused,” which left me doubting myself  — even now, years later, when I can’t find something after I put it down. It still makes me feel vulnerable and like I shouldn’t be trusted with important stuff. I know my medication can have an affect on my memory, which in turn means I’m not always sure about things. I ask people not to discuss certain things with me after my meds to keep me safe. I have thought about stopping the medication, but this wouldn’t be a sensible idea as I take a lot of pain medications and it would mean pain would be constant again.

It’s been a few years since I ended an abusive relationship, and I am pleased to say I am getting more confident. I’m looking forward to a better life, but that’s only possible because I stopped blaming myself for everyone else’s actions and started holding the right people accountable. Please don’t hesitate to stop abuse. You aren’t the faulty party.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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Originally published: March 24, 2017
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