Wendy's Blog

The Insidious After-Effects of Being Abused, Cheated On, Lied To, Hurt or Neglected, Insulted, Demeaned, Berated, Bullied or in Any Other Way Abused By Other People

by Wendy Keller

When a human being is abused by another, the most important thing we lose is our sense of trust.  As abuse victims, we decide we can no longer trust some (or all) of these:

  • A parent or both parents
  • A relative or all relatives
  • All men or all women
  • Teachers, priests, ministers, Boy Scout leaders, etc.
  • Our peers – the mean kids or the mean colleagues
  • Lovers or spouses
  • Our own children
  • Civil authorities like police and judges
  • God, religion or other belief systems

But most of all: ourselves.  Abuse victims stop trusting themselves, even if it appears on the outside that they ONLY trust themselves.  You may have heard women say, “I guess I have a ‘broken picker'” to explain away the destructive, deadbeat or abusive men they’ve let into their lives or whom they consistently find attractive.  Perhaps you’ve met someone who is embittered about religion or relationships and cites example after example of all the times they’ve been done wrong.

These people are abuse victims.  The minute we are abused is the minute we start to seek psychological shelter, a way to avoid similar pain in the future.  The typical way is to make a rule about “All….are bad/dangerous/risky.”  Then, that decision acts as a beacon, ironically attracting more of that type into your life. It’s human nature to do all we can to avoid pain and gain pleasure. You are programmed to avoid being hurt and abused…unless your picker has been so badly damaged it doesn’t help you anymore to choose situations that are likely to NOT cause you pain.

I observe that anyone who has suffered a core loss of trust has had their “picker” damaged, whether the damage has been perpetrated by a parent (“Authority figures don’t protect me; I am on my own here; I can’t trust anyone to take care of me.”) or a love relationship (“All women cheat” or “I always pick men who hit me.”); or a religious figure (“God didn’t protect me” or “The church lied to me.”) The good news: There are ways to “fix your picker.”

If you’re one of the majority of people who has been damaged by someone breaking their implicit contract with you, you’ve been abused.  Abuse victims suffer from the effects of a lack of trust, no matter what kind of abuse they endured.  The outcomes include a permanent sense of isolation; depression; addiction; over-achieving; under-achieving; continually messed up relationships; becoming bad parents and/or bad partners; continual job loss or career failure; and most of all, an abiding sense that something is deeply wrong inside themselves. 

The First Step in Healing

When a close friend suggested I am an “abuse victim” I immediately claimed I am not!  I had medical proof my hymen was still intact two weeks before my wedding, and no one had touched me inappropriately. But as I mulled over the “abuse victim symptoms” that cropped up in several areas of my life, I began to come to the horrible realization that yes, I AM an abuse victim! (Just not a childhood sexual abuse one.)

And that changed everything. Not in the “woe is me” way, but in the incredible amount of compassion I felt for myself and for everyone else who has suffered any kind of abuse in their own life.  That’s the secret: To feel compassion for yourself again.   To start to recognize what you’ve endured and to see where you’re paying the price in your life, and then decide to do something about it. 

If you don’t know you have a problem, you can’t fix it.

Wiggle the word “abuse” around in your head.  What unconscious drive led you to read this blog post if you claim you are not an abuse victim? As horrible as it is to admit, there’s a surprising relief in recognizing that you were abused, too. (Even if it wasn’t in the revolting sexual abuse/incest sort of way.)

Think of an incident in your life that you recall as maybe abusive. If your immediate tendency is to downplay it, excuse it, justify it or ignore it, then it definitely was abuse.

And No, everybody hasn’t been abused.

Recognizing you’ve been an abuse victim yourself allows you to start finding ways to heal as surely if you found out you have a disease. You’d immediately ask, “What can be done to cure this disease?” and presumably start treatment.

The disease you have is the abuse(s) you’ve suffered.  Among the symptoms is an inability to trust yourself and/or others.  The first step in healing is to admit to ourselves that we are real abuse victims and to look around for the cure, or to begin with, relief from the worst of the symptoms.  You may never get 100% ‘cured’, but you can go a long way toward healing if you summon the courage to begin the journey.

Why does this work? Because taking care of yourself in such simple yet powerful way – stating that you want your heart and mind to be healthy – is a nurturing kind of self-care that begins to build the first fragile strand of self-trust.  It will trigger you into looking for remedies, ways to begin getting emotionally and physically healthier.  And that choice is the beginning of healing.

Please share your thoughts.

Note that you can post as an anonymous guest.



  1. Anonymous Guest says:

    Thank you for this.. i’ve been married twice and the man i live with Now is no good. I was raised by my momAlone an even though I Wasnot sexually abused either i do habe a STRONG problem trusting men becaus they cheatt. i am going to get some help doing better. thank YOU

  2. I dont have a broken picker. But not close but to 2 people.my 2nd hubby is wonderful.i stay home away from people most cant b trusted.almost all.i didnt use to b like this. My fiance’ sexually abused my 2 daughters.they thank goodness are thriving- i am closed off. A bit lonely but cant handle betrayal of any kind

    • I too am isolated. Not so sure I was meant for this world. I have reached out for help, but people then throw it up in your face when they want to make you feel inferior or treat you with pity. Just want to find some peace.

      • Hi Deby,

        It’s my consistent experience that relying on other people to “understand” or to help you fix things rarely brings peace. I think peace-finding is an inside job. May I recommend you find a copy of Thich Nhat Hahn’s book “Being Peace”? Let me know what your thoughts are when you’ve read it. I found it transformational in my own life. I study stuff from a lot of different kinds of teachers. I find that helps me have a broader awareness.

        Sending you love,

  3. Illuminating says:

    Its upto us to bring awareness of we being abused or not and then take action. As for relying on others for love and peace and happiness and comfort- it wont work. It is us and us alone who have to work towards generating self love, self nurturing. I am working on this now after burning my hands thrice in 3 relationships. It just will become a lifelong pattern if we dont take charge

  4. I was drugged and raped twice, on a first date a month ago, once in the cinema and in my own home , I often wish i could have turned back time and never met the guy, but, what is done is done, I need to move on and find happiness, its still very recent , but I need to heal, I did report this to the police, but I cant wait forever while they hurry up and find and him, it may come down to my word against his, so i need to be strong and find a way to heal from the pain, hurt and anger. Im happy if anyone wishes to share any strategies of how they they moved forward.
    Thanks x

    • Hayley,

      This sounds like a dreadful ordeal! I do not have any words of wisdom on this one, but I know there are plenty of resources at local rape crisis centers, including counselors. Please, please check out what’s available. And also, probably there are some soothing, healing books on the topic. Have you looked for them? And lastly, if any of you other dear readers want to give her some tips, please jump in now.

      Sending you love, Hayley, that you can find peace and joy again soon.

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