MY FRIEND NEEDS TO LEAVE HER ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP | Landen G. recently reached out to ask how to support a good friend who admits that her partner is abusive.
[Statements edited slightly for flow.] “How do I encourage her to seek help?” LG asks. “I really want to find the bastard who’s hurting her, but I know that’s not right. I’m willing to do whatever you think would be best for her.”
***Please note: This situation does not include physical violence, but emotional and psychological abuses. Other tactics may be necessary where bodily harm and threat to life by violence are present.***
LG is correct. He can’t run in vigilante style and have a what-for with this abuser, no matter how strong the urge to protect his friend. An abusive situation is a volatile situation—yes, even where there is no physical violence, because one cannot predict escalation to an extreme—so it’s dangerous to provoke the antagonist of our story.
It would also be the wrong move to swoop in, even with the best intentions, and try to remove the victim from her situation, or push her to leave. She is the protagonist of this narrative, and LG has to give her the lead.
Quiet support is the immediate need. A listening ear. A willingness to take action—if and when called upon.
As a victim begins to understand she’s living with abuse, she has a lot to process and reconcile. Thoughts and feelings about her experience are difficult and confusing, and can be made all the more uncomfortable, even impossible to navigate, if we contribute before she’s ready. Too much too soon can backfire.
Our protagonist needs—more than anything—to find her footing and realize that control can belong to her, followed by room to figure out what that looks like. What she needs it to look like. She may share with trusted friends or family through this process, but it’s more about needing someone to listen and validate her truths (which she doesn’t get at home), not think for her or try to problem solve (which she likely gets far too much of, courtesy of her emotionally and psychologically abusive partner).
Over time, as she gains more strength and clarity, you may intuit opportunities for gentle, passive encouragement. Has she considered counseling? Is there a plan she could make? What help might be useful? How does she want to be supported? Which steps can we contribute to that might make her goals easier?
She’ll either answer your questions when she’s ready, or give you permission to help her determine the answers.
Study or be ready with relevant articles from online, or topical books from the local library. (You can email me for suggestions.) Have ready a list of other friends and family who can be enlisted for the eventual task of moving out or covering her trail or starting over. Look up women’s shelters, trauma groups, Legal Aid, community assistance. Keep listening to her. Remind her that you are ready and able for anything she needs to ask for. Watch for ways to help that will not feel overbearing or controlling to her. And be patient. Her difficult thoughts and confused feelings aren’t going to dry up immediately, because she has a lengthy and layered journey ahead of her.
Meanwhile, what she may benefit from most is your unconditional love.
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