Home » Blogs » Strength Over Adversity » How it feels to be hit…

How it feels to be hit…

In my blogs and when I travel and speak, most of my writing and my speeches focus on inner strength and feelings; how physical and mental abuse hurts our brains and our thoughts and perceptions of ourselves.  I discuss my physical abuse, but I never really delve too deeply into it because I’m always afraid of triggering someone in my audience, or triggering myself.  So a forewarning, the following may trigger some of you who have experienced physical abuse.

About a month ago, I was speaking to a small group of therapists and during my Q&A portion of my speech; a therapist raised her hand and asked me, “Sarah, how did it feel to get hit?”  I didn’t understand what she was asking, was she present for the speech?  Did she just miss what I was talking about for the past hour?  “What do you mean?” I asked her.  She stood up and all eyes in the room turned on her.

“In that moment, what does it feel like?  You talked about learning how to protect your body, you learned how to stay out of certain rooms, you talked about how you felt after the beating – but I’m curious to know what it is like in that actual moment, when your Mom was in your face choking you and punching you, what is that moment like?”

I was taken aback and looked around the room for reactions to what she said.  All eyes had turned back on me and I know the look on my face had to have read, “Is this woman serious?!” I was hoping that someone would feel my uneasiness and tell me that I didn’t have to answer that question.  They were all involved in therapy in some way; couldn’t they tell how awkward that question was for me?

Silence; I could see that they all wanted to hear how I was going to answer that question.  I knew that in order to help them so they could help others suffering, I would have to risk being triggered and relive something I tried very hard to forget.

“Do you really want to know what it’s like in that moment?  What it feels like to be cornered and beaten like a dog?  I’ll tell you.  It’s the most demoralizing and humiliating thing you can ever imagine.  The moment comes so fast, often without warning, that one moment you could be standing in the living room looking at the television, and the next, you could be face down on the floor getting your back pummeled and your hair pulled.

And that moment, the pain is real.  You feel the pain of a fist hitting your ribs over and over again until you can’t breathe, you feel the agony of your hair being pulled so hard that it seems as if it is being yanked right out of your skull.  You try and protect yourself; you wriggle around and try to move your arms to ward off some of the blows, but that only makes them madder.  Time seems to slow down – the only sounds you hear are the rage of your abuser and your own tears.

Your mind is racing because you are trying to figure out a way to get your abuser to stop.  You apologize, you plead with them to stop, but the sound of your voice only seems to enrage them more.  The initial pain has subsided and numbness comes over your body.  Your mind goes to a place where you aren’t being abused or hit and you just shut your eyes and go limp, praying for it to be over soon.  You give up because you are powerless to fight back.”

I took a deep breath and hung my head down.

“And that, is what it feels like to be hit.”

How it feels to be hit…

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

4 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
, . (2015). How it feels to be hit…. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 Jul 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.