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How can I help my friend escape an abusive relationship?

How can I help my friend escape an abusive relationship?

How can I help my friend escape an abusive relationship?
December 15
12:00 2021

Content warning: this article contains language and content related to domestic violence, viewer discretion is advised.

One in four women will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime. This statistic shows how prevalent this issue is in our communities.

Picture this: You are driving down a street in your neighborhood. Every fourth house you pass, a woman living there is likely to be suffering from intimate partner violence.

This woman is your neighbor. She could be your co-worker or your friend. It could be your sister or your mom.

Witnessing someone you love endure an abusive relationship is difficult and we do not always know the best way to respond. Your impulse might be to “save them” from the abusive relationship, but it is just not that simple. There are numerous ways abuse can emerge, and there are just as many reasons why people remain in abusive relationships.

SafeHaven of Tarrant County has put together a few steps you can take to support your loved ones and help pave the way for them to reach freedom in a safe manner.

  1. Listen and believe

More than anything else, believe them. Abusers can often be likable and charismatic, and it can be hard to think someone good can do such terrible things. It is not your role to search for or find evidence. It is your role to make sure the victim’s cry is met with an open heart. Recognizing that the reality she is living in is difficult and scary, reaffirm that she is are courageous to take back control from her abuser.

  1. Do not blame them

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It takes two to tango.” In relationships scarred by violence, it only takes one. Nothing will ever justify abuse, so do not ask the victim what her role was. Questioning their contribution only worsens the situation. Avoid criticizing or guilting her over her decisions. It is important to not judge the choices she makes.

  1. Give unconditional support

Our gut instinct is to often think, “If I were them, I would just leave!” Survivors know their abusers best, learning how to navigate to stay safe. You must remind your loved one that leaving is not a condition of your love and support. Even more so, it is important to continue supporting her if she ends the relationship or goes back to her abusive partner.

  1. Let them guide the journey

Your loved one has confided in you because she trusts you. You must remember that you are unable to “rescue her” and that her life choices are only for hers to make. Offer support and resources to your loved one, but let her navigate the process of leaving. You could even help her create a safety plan or offer moral support by going with her to a legal services office. Provide them with the National Domestic Violence Hotline number 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

When you have this conversation with your loved one, she may begin to admit some things may have happened or are happening, but then she might pull away or take it back. This conversation is not to get your loved one to completely change their mind about her partner. You also do not need her to confess to you that she is being abused. The purpose of the conversation is to let your loved one know that you are paying attention and that you care, and that you are there for her whenever she needs to talk.

It is unlikely that the abusive situation will be resolved after only one conversation. You should expect to have more conversations like this. You must be understanding and patient as your loved one goes through this process. Know that you are doing the right thing by engaging in dialogue on this difficult topic. Let your loved one know that you support her and that you are there for her when she might need you.

Understanding how power and control work in an abusive setting and how to give back power to domestic violence victims are just a couple of important ways to support your loved ones. Living with relationship abuse is traumatic, and victims of an abusive relationship need someone they can depend on to help and love them as they process the complicated emotions and take their next steps.

In Texas, there is a fatality review team that conducts an in-depth analysis of cases to prevent IPV homicides. In 2020, the Tarrant County Fatality Review shows that 17 women died at the hands of their partners. This is the highest number of intimate partner violence homicides on record for Tarrant County.

Everyone deserves to be safe, and we all can play a part in achieving this for our loved ones.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

About Author

Liliana Green

Liliana Green

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