Aftercare for students
Leaving an unhealthy or abusive relationship always comes with its share of challenges and is often one of the most dangerous times for survivors of dating violence. But what happens when you are a high school or university student? Leaving these relationships is difficult enough without having to see the person the next day at school. These are some useful tips from survivor to survivor about how to stay emotionally, mentally, and physically safe in a school environment after leaving an abusive relationship.
As overwhelming as this task might feel, an integral part of getting back on your feet is finding someone you can trust. When you have had your trust consistently broken, betrayed, or questioned, finding someone who just supports and believes you can be the most comforting thing. A support system can also be a friendly face when you walk into school every day, someone to sit with at lunch, or someone to walk you to class when you don’t feel safe going alone.
The next thing that really helped me was doing some research about relationship abuse, domestic violence, coercion, stalking, etc. Understanding what happened to you can help validate both your decisions and your emotions as well.
You are doing an amazing job handling a scary and overwhelming situation.
It is okay if you feel guilty, sad, relieved, remorseful, numb, or even happy. Understanding what happened can help you process your feelings, while also assisting you in determining the best course of action for handling future encounters.
Another important component is safety: it is important that you get someone involved (a guidance counselor, a parent, a friend, or a teacher) if you feel you are in danger at school with this person. Taking steps such as moving your locker further away from theirs, switching your schedule around so you do not have classes with them, and alerting authorities if necessary, are all options you can consider if you feel unsafe. If you feel they are a threat to you, themselves, or others, it is never a bad idea to get some other people clued into what has been happening. You do not have to be alone during this time; people are willing and able to help if you give them the chance. You are doing great.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to be emotionally and mentally prepared to deal with some problems and hurtful situations. Your ex might try to convince you that you have made a mistake by leaving them; they might spread rumors about you and play the victim; they may even take to social media and make fake accounts under your name or spam your phone with texts and calls. This can all sound overwhelming and scary to think about, but it is best to have a game plan in place when you walk through the school doors.
You are the expert in your own situation, and only you know whether it is beneficial for you to engage with them if they are exhibiting this kind of behavior.
Giving some thought to how you will react if they approach you wanting to discuss something about the break up or to say something hurtful, demeaning, or threatening is a helpful tool in my experience – this way, you are not caught off guard and are emotionally prepared. Take care of yourself during this time, and practice good self-care. Please give yourself grace and patience as you navigate this, and do not make yourself the enemy. You are doing an amazing job.