How do you help a friend see the truth?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, so much so that it warrants a blog post at the very least.

How do you make a friend see they’re in an abusive relationship and help them leave?

It’s a big question and an even bigger topic, and I’m sure many will have all sorts of responses to it but let me sound out my thoughts to you.

I know I have my special radar on, listening out for clues and linking them together to get a bigger picture. I’ve worked for a domestic violence organisation in the community, in a refuge and on a help-line. I’ve delivered training, have written and read about this subject so much over the years. Do I consider myself to be someone who knows absolutely everything there is to know about domestic violence? Not at all. Nobody knows everything but I know a lot and so it’s natural for me to keep this in mind when I meet anyone.

I have to say it here, I love my friends. I love them so much and I want them to be happy. I also want them to live a life free of fear and abuse. Love doesn’t hurt. I don’t believe a person who claims to love you will hurt you or abuse or manipulate you.

I grew up with domestic violence, I knew that love and hurting someone physically wasn’t the same thing. So when I entered relationships later on and I wasn’t hit, I decided it must be love because there were no bruises. It was a naive assumption I made on my part, even when I knew about the different aspects of domestic violence, even when I delivered training or went on marches or wrote about it, I didn’t make the connection to anything I was experiencing at the time. Why? Oh, well I was never hit. Not a finger laid on me, really. So, my mind decided that it must be love.

sad

Truth is, I didn’t know what love is.

Taking a break from my area of speciality and then coming back to it meant that I was looking at it from a new perspective. I remember sitting in an induction, feeling really put out because I had previously delivered the training I was on, until I started to connect to the words and the definitions, and I had no choice but to look at my situation with a new perspective. It could no longer be ignored or swept under the carpet. It was there in black and white on paper, in a room full of people discussing it and agreeing, it was there in front of me and I could relate on too many levels to turn a blind eye to it again.

I had to take action and act upon it, because me doing nothing wasn’t going to change anything and I realised that. I knew I had to love myself and ensure my happiness, and that meant removing myself from something that was slowly smothering me.

I have since spoken to friends who have said they could see what was happening, that it was clear to them but not clear to me. And this makes me wonder, why didn’t anyone say anything to me? Why didn’t they make me see what they were seeing?

But then that prompts me to ask a more important question: Would I have listened?

It’s unlikely I would have and so I understand when women choose to turn their backs on their friends who seemingly run back to abusive partners despite all the advice given to them. It’s not a case of them choosing the abuse over safety, but more the fact that they have to be at a point where they are ready to consider that they deserve to be treated better. How can you address an issue, a problem, when you don’t believe it exists? How can you change your mind when you don’t know you have the power to? It’s a hard one but ultimately we stick to our decisions when it’s been a voluntary process. No amount of nagging, arguing or falling out will make your friend leave an abusive relationship. If she isn’t ready, she isn’t ready and while that can be frustrating, the most important thing you can do is be there for her.

friendsWhat she needs is someone to believe in her. What she needs is someone who will remind her of how great she is. What she needs is someone who will listen, wipe up her tears and make her smile on days she feels like she is worth nothing. She needs to be reminded of her true worth, that there is some good in this world, because only that will show her that the abusive behaviour isn’t the norm and isn’t to be accepted. And when she is ready, when she finally leaves on her terms, she needs someone who will support her along the way, not someone who will say “I told you so.”

How do you help a friend who is in an abusive relationship? Don’t walk away. Don’t close the door on her. Don’t burn down the bridge. Believe in her. Be there, with love, support, facts and help-line numbers. Be her light. Show her there is a way out. Give her hope. Love her and your love will lead the way.

 

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Masqued says:

    One of my friends looked at me across a restaurant table, and told me in a heartbroken voice “I wish I had said something sooner.” This was the friend who heard, for the first time, all the nitty-gritty details when she and my mother escorted me to court for my temporary protection order the day I left. My mother stood on one side. She stood on my other.

    Luckily my commitment to my friends was something I made when I got married. I decided way back then that my female friendships were important. I think that is advice we should give any woman entering a romantic relationship. Or any man, too. Friendships should be an ongoing and important part of their lives.

    It lays the groundwork of support in cases of any sort of tragedy.

    For me, for the longest time, I believed that my husband was sick. Was mentally ill. That he couldn’t help but be abusive. I just finally got to the point that the crazy was too much. And when I reached out to one of my friends, I would finally ask “am I crazy for feeling like he is over-reacting?” or “am I doing something inappropriate that makes him that angry?” and I knew I could trust that friend to give me an honest answer.

    It still took me nearly ten years to give up. But in that time, my friends never gave up on me. They suffered his presence at events, from time to time, because it meant they got me around too. They still reacted to things I shared, being supportive, saying that ‘it’s not right’ or validating me when I came to revelations on my own. Letting me keep emergency bags at their houses. They took me away for girls’ weekends, and I went, no matter what I came home to. Because they loved me in a way my husband never quite could, and I craved that easy support.

    I married young, barely 22. These ladies loved me. But I had to do my part. I had to try and hold onto them too. Sometimes life got in the way, but in the end, without them, I would never have escaped. But they loved me without judging. They loved me whether I stayed. They loved me whether I left. It wasn’t easy for any of them. And there were times it wasn’t easy for me to hold on to them either.

    I think, for friends – it’s okay if you have boundaries, it’s okay if you speak up. But the trick is to avoid making choices for your friend. Chances are, if someone is in an abusive relationship, to avoid bad things happening, they give up a lot of their choice. Instead, empower your friend. Validate the good things. Encourage them. Let them know they aren’t crazy. Share the good things about them that you see.

    Sorry… this apparently hit a poignant topic for me. Thanks for the post and posing the question.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Don’t apologise for it. Someone may read it and be encouraged by what you’ve written. I agree with you completely about the importance of friendships. I know that better now than I did a few years ago, but it also took finding some friends who really loved me for me. Thank you so much for reading and sharing that little bit of you xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, thanks for sharing!

    Like

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