A friend in need is a friend indeed.
TRIGGER WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MENTIONS OF PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE.
From the 25th November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to the 10th December (Human Rights Day), there is the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign, focused to raise awareness on pressing issue of domestic violence against women and girls from all over the world.
I have decided to publish content on the subject for the next 16 days, in order to reach as many people as we can and spread some informations that can be helpful to many people who are suffering from domestic abuse.
It happened again and you don’t know what to do. How do you help somebody who is going or has gone through abuse and violence?
I have heard from someone saying that sometimes the solution is right in front of us, it’s the shame of being seen fixing the problem that can stop us from overcoming the obstacle.
Today we talk about how we – as individuals – we can help a person we know is suffering from abuse.
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
Give them the time and space.
It’s important to be there. Don’t bail on them; nor make false promises. Try to make a frequent commitment to meet up with them, in order to show that you are present and you care for them.
Give them the choice to choose where to meet up and talk to them heart to heart. Don’t be aggressive, or make them feel guilty for getting you worried.
Express your concerns in a way that is safe for them.
Make sure that you can speak privately and in a place where the abuser won’t be able to find them. If you think that meeting up with your friend might put her at greater risk, don’t push it and find a safer way to contact them.
This is quite simple. It might be good to keep the conversation light-hearted, so that they don’t feel like their abuse is the only reason why you want to hang out with them. You’re still friends after all; but don’t try to vomit all of your problems onto them, just to avoid the big elephant in the room.
Create a space for talking. Ask them generic questions, try to remain calm and collected. Look at them in the eyes. Making them feel important and valued will increase their chance of feeling safe and more willing to open up to you.
When they talk, listen. It’s obviously going to make you upset and anger you, but it’s not your show. This is their space to share their stories.
Encourage them to share their experience and offer them support.
No Blaming game
Even if you may have seen it coming, or you have told them so many times; don’t do it. Don’t you try to make them feel guilty about making the wrong decision, because it won’t help them.
Actually, it will beat their self-esteem to the low. They will feel stupid, ashamed and embarrassed that they didn’t listen to you.
You have no right to say “I told you!”, or “If only you had listened to me”, because you don’t know what happens in an abusive relationship unless you have been in one and acting like the mom who wants to punish you for doing something wrong is just mimicking the same behaviour they are trying to escape from.
So even if you had told them so, support them and let them know that you are sorry that things had gone that way.
Be a decent human.
Help them understand what they are going through.
Because of the abuse your friend might be probably confused or in denial of the abuse, so it’s your turn to support them and help them making the right choice.
If you are unsure on what are the signs of an abusive relationship, here is a previous post on potential signs of an abusive relationship.
Discuss it with them, consult other websites, watch videos and talk to them about the possibility that this relationship might not be a healthy one.
Contact your local organisation of violence support, as they will be able to provide you with a professional that can talk to your friend and you can be there for them to not make it seem a bit less intimidating.
Help them draw a safety plan
If your friend needs a safety plan to get out of their abusive relationship and you’re aware of it, it’s your duty to help them and support them in doing that.
It might be financial help, or it might be offering a place to stay for a couple of days, but it’s fundamental that you help them as much as you can in doing that, as failing to do so can lead to something bad happening to your friend.
If you were trying to escape and knew your friends had the possibility to help you to do that; wouldn’t you wish that they helped you and supported you as much as you can?
Then do it. Give them the time, the place, the talks and all that is needed and that you can offer to them, because being able to part from the abuser is a fundamental step in breaking an abusive cycle.
If they stay with them, keep going.
It’s very likely that your friend might stay with the abuser, because as we have said before – breaking the cycle of abuse is not easy as it seems.
However, don’t think that it’s all gone. Keep giving them the support. Actually this time more than ever, because they might think that you have turned their backs on them by going against your opinion.
This is not even a matter of opinions. Breaking up with an abusive partner, or leaving an abusive situation is complex and you wouldn’t understand it, unless you were living it so again, it is not your place to judge.
It’s not your place to shame them, or guilt-trip them. Don’t pull a “him or me”, because you will put your friend in a distressing situation.
Be supportive, try to keep in touch as much as you can and keep in mind that…
YOU CAN’T RESCUE THEM.
Helping your abused friend is not your charity case. You don’t help someone to feel good about yourself. You help them because you genuinely care.
So keep in mind that it’s not your place to shine, you are not about to become the next Captain America because you just acted as a decent human being.
The decision is on your friend’s plate. Your friend has to decide what to do with their life and how to go about leaving an abusive relationship.
All you can do is be there for them in the most supportive and least intrusive way and ensure that they are safe and happy.
Be there for them, but actually there. Not half.