Katya Wojcik is a Northwest Family Life affiliate therapist who specializes in issues of trauma, abuse, and PTSD.
Katya, you are also a DV survivor. How does your own history impact your advocacy work with others?
I feel that it has allowed me an even deeper connection with those affected by domestic violence. I understand first hand the ways that an unhealthy relationship can affect survivors and this helps me to empathize in a genuine manner. My own history makes me want to continue to challenge myself to be vulnerable with others so that they can gain more knowledge and awareness.
Talk about the grooming process and some of the distinct patterns in vocabulary that are common to many abusers.
In my experience as well as that of many I’ve worked with, there is often a common theme of abusers wooing an individual from the beginning stages of the relationship. They may talk about you being everything to them, say no one else is worthy of you, and slowly separate you from your close family and friends. Abusive relationships often form quickly, many times resulting in engagement and marriage. Once an abuser has built you up it may seem like literally overnight they begin to become abusive, making you wonder who this new person is. Through the confusion, you may often endure physical, emotional and verbal abuse. Everything will be your fault, right down to the reasons that they physically hurt you. “You made me hit you…” Often it will seem like nothing you do is ever right and you are walking on eggshells, living in constant anxiety and unable to prepare for the next blowout.
What kind of advice might you give to those who experience triggers related to DV or PTSD symptoms?
Be kind to yourself, honor the strength you have to be able to say you made it through that time in your life. Know that you can use your triggers to increase your awareness of how you feel about certain things and how to navigate yourself in a healthier manner.
Talk to us about healing being constant instead of a definite end place.
Just like tending to your body physically, healing yourself emotionally and spiritually are equally as important. We are exposed to many things in the world, often those things make a mark on our lives. If we do not practice self-care, checking in with ourselves, and constant healing, life can begin to get overwhelming.
Not all answers come when you want them to. What are your thoughts on pushing through discomfort instead of a quick fix.
Quick fixes usually don’t last, it’s only through self-reflection, understanding, and awareness that growth can happen with more consistent results. You can learn a great deal about yourself once you tap into what your discomforts are and the healthiest manner to navigate them.
Talk to us about how for an abuser, abuse may be a way of survival.
It has always been my experience that abusers are often individuals who have very low self-esteem and are unhappy with life and themselves. Happy people don’t want to harm others. Instead of focusing on their own issues, abusers blame others and it becomes a way of survival. Without this, they would be forced to look at their own flaws and feel the discomfort of it.
Speak to us about the possibilities people have to evolve/change/rename themselves.
Sadness, difficulty, and failure give us the opportunity to rebuild and come back as stronger more resilient individuals. Channel your pain into power. Connect with yourself and watch how you can navigate with ease something that might be difficult for others.
You say that learning to trust again after abuse is a continuum, not just something that happens. Can you elaborate on this?
Learning to trust yourself after an abusive relationship is difficult. Often when we look back we can sense that our gut or intuition had warned us but we ignored it. We have to turn up the volume on ourselves and trust what we feel. Check in with yourself often, ask why you feel a certain way in a certain experience. Take a risk on trusting that you know what is best for yourself.
You often encourage survivors to exercise their voice. Would you tell us about this?
Your voice is one of your biggest assets. It’s this and your experience that can help others to increase their awareness, resiliency, and understanding of what abuse is. Your voice can help others connect with their own experiences.