I had several boyfriends over the years do things to me that were psychologically or emotionally abusive. [I was raped by someone as well, but I don't consider that being sexually abused - even though that definitely makes you feel vulnerable and weak. It was not by a boyfriend or someone that I trusted.]
But over the years, I stayed in abusive situations because I really thought that nobody would ever love me...and that stemmed directly from my step-dad telling me as a kid that "nobody would ever love me" and "I would never amount to anything" and I was "worthless and useless and stupid" etc, etc, etc. If someone tells you that every day, eventually you start to believe it.
I ended up spending so many years of my life trying to PROVE to my step-dad that I was worth something, that I would be something, that someone would love me. No matter what I did, it was never good enough for him - I made straight A's, graduated a year early, was ranked 2nd in my class, worked my way through college so it's not like I was a bad kid. I was incredibly smart, made a 28 on the ACT, in the Talented and Gifted Program from 2nd grade all the way on, was one of Who's Who of College Students, made the Dean's list, etc, etc. It really didn't matter what I did though - I never felt like he was going to be proud of me. I felt like he was never going to love me.
Around 5 years ago, or maybe 6, I finally had to forgive him and forgive myself and forgive my mom for what happened to me. I actively forgave my mom for not being there, for not standing up for me, for allowing it to happen. I didn't realize how much resentment I held toward her for what had happened, how angry I was at her for not standing up for her own daughter while she was being beaten and called stupid and yelled at, etc, etc. I also had to forgive myself and realize that I was just a kid, and that hurt people hurt people. They did that because of things in their own childhood that they carried into life, and they were very young when I was born. I was 14 when they were my age, so they were way too young to have the responsibility of a family. [that's one reason I try to discourage young people now from rushing into marriage or parenthood. They have no idea what they're getting into.]
I thought of all the good things that my dad had taught me over the years and tried to see if there was any positive to what had happened to me. And I wrote him a letter and told him what the positive things were that I learned from him, told him I forgave him and understood that he was just a young kid who did the best that he could. And I ended it by saying "I hope that one day you will be proud of me". I told my mom about it, and she asked him about it one day when he stopped by her house.
He told her that he would keep that letter forever, that it meant the world to him, that he felt bad for what he'd done to me, and that he had always been and would always be proud of me and he loved me more than he ever knew how to express.
And that was my first step at forgiveness and at letting go of some of the effects I had. People underestimate the power of forgiveness, but there is more power in it than we would like to admit. Just because we forgive does not mean that we are saying that what they did was "okay".