Help! Someone I Love Is In An Abusive Relationship
With statistics reporting that 1 in 4 women will experience abuse by an intimate partner sometime in her lifetime, undoubtedly, you either have known or will know someone in an abusive relationship. As the founder of Truelove Homes, I am frequently asked, “What can I do to help my friend/co-worker/neighbor/sister/daughter/etc who finds herself in such a situation?” May this concise article guide you as you minister to one who desperately needs you.
1. Educate Yourself
All too often well intentioned people provide dangerous advice and/or condemning feedback to the battered souls of domestic abuse. It is very difficult for those who have never experienced the dynamics of domestic violence to understand the devastation of those dynamics let alone how to guide one around the mine field, or should I say, “mind fields”. Nevertheless, educating yourself by reading as many resources as you are able will immensely empower you as you assist your hurting loved one.
Quite possibly the best thing you can do for your battered loved one is to simply listen and listen some more. Just having someone to vent to makes a big impact in her damaged world. Be aware of your body language as you listen – Does your body language project that you care, are paying attention, and not judging her? If you must speak, choose your words carefully. Never ever say, “Why don’t you just leave?” and never speak negatively about her abuser. Here’s why: Getting out of an abusive relationship is more difficult than you can possibly imagine not to mention an incredibly dangerous time for her. Additionally, victims of abuse tend to leave and return 7 to 9 times before permanently terminating the relationship. There are a plethora of factors as to why she can’t leave as well as why she returns. Again, educate yourself. If you bad-mouth her abuser and she forgives him (or tries harder to resolve the issue, which she will until she accepts the reality of the situation), she will remember how you trashed him and will most likely no longer seek you out for support or further friendship possibly.
Instead, empathize with her and encourage her. You could say things like:
I believe you.
You aren’t alone.
You don’t deserve that.
You are so smart, beautiful, kind, loving, a good person….
Much brainwashing has been done by her batterer so anything you can do and say to convey you believe her and in her is a win.
3. Empower Her
While listening to her story, you may be tempted to fix her. Don’t. Don’t tell her what to do, or what to say to her man, or advise her on how you would handle it. Instead, help her discover her options while thinking through potential consequences of those options. You could say things like, “You could do this…” or “You could do that..” For example, she could stay with him, she could stay at such and such’s house for however long, she could go to the local shelter, she could contact Truelove Homes 🙂 , she could apply for housing assistance, she could apply for a particular job, she could get her child in daycare, she could open a bank account and start saving money, etc. There are always options. Part of developing a safety plan is for her to understand and explore her options. Your role during this confusing and chaotic time in her life could be enormously impacting for her greater good as you help her discover those options while not doing steps for her that she should be doing for herself. She doesn’t need someone else to control her or attempt to control her circumstance, she needs you to empower her to start making healthy decisions and following through on such decisions for herself.
In summary, if you really want to help make a difference in a battered woman’s life, educate yourself, empathize with her, encourage and empower her. After all, that’s what friends are for!