Is your partner hitting you, belittling you, insulting you behind closed doors or in front of family and friends, criticizing your intelligence, forcing you to have sexual relations against your will or even forbidding you from seeing your family and friends? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you are in an abusive relationship. I know. I lived it.

Abuse has no age, color or gender. Abuse surrounds us. Being in an abusive relationship is frightening and difficult to acknowledge. At first, I was ashamed to discuss the matter with anyone. I didn't want people to know I was being called simple-minded, dumb, and ugly. I was told numerous times I wouldn't make it very far in life. I believed every word. I suffered from very low self-esteem. I was angry with myself because I wasn't pretty enough or intelligent enough for him. I suffered a couple of bruises trying to stand up for myself. I backed down. That was until one day I gained courage to walk away from it all.

It was not simple leaving the relationship because that was all I knew. I desperately wanted a boyfriend. But with a fantastic support system by my side - my mother and sister - I realized that particular relationship was not what I hoped for. It was a struggle to trust another man, to regain my confidence and rebuild my self-esteem. However, it was worth the struggle and time it took. I'm a firm believer that time heals all wounds.

Many women and men involved in abusive relationships lack the understanding that abuse is not only about the visible bruises. Those hurt, but the mental and emotional abuse hurts deeper; and it remains in us for a very long time. Why do we allow abuse? Well, we assume since they are our partner, they have the authority to treat us unfairly. They ask us for forgiveness or buy us things to compensate for their behavior; and we truly believe them. It's a vicious cycle. However, you have the power to break free from the cycle and start a well-deserved, healthy life.

Below are a few suggestions on how to beat abuse:

Acknowledge that you deserve a better life

with no bruises, no emotional insults and no painful criticisms. Pray to your God and ask him to help you find the courage within yourself so you can walk away from the relationship with your head held high. Remember there is always someone out there who will treat you the way you deserve to be treated - with respect, loyalty and love.

Enlist people you can trust

- a family member, a friend, or a counselor - and explain what is going on. Do not be afraid of being judged or looked down upon. Trusted individuals will care and lend that helping hand.

Build your self-esteem

by letting go of all the negatives and focusing on the positives. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself how beautiful you are inside and outside. Tell yourself you are smart. You are worthy to live a good life. Think about all the good things you have in your life. Think about all the things you want to achieve. Begin planning and acting on what you wish to achieve. Turn your dreams into a reality. You'll be surprised with a healthy mind, body and soul how far you can go in life.

Remember, you have control of your life; so do not allow abuse to take over. You deserve peace and happiness.

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