Monday, July 14, 2014

Lessons :: My Friend is in an Abusive Relationship...

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Anonymous asks,

"I have a friend who is in a physically abusive relationship. While I recognize that I can't force her to change her life, what do you think I should do? How do you help in a situation like this?"

You're absolutely right -- you can't force her to do anything, which is exactly what makes this situation so tricky. However, it's a good sign that she's confiding in you, unless she didn't tell you and you happened to see bruises or markings, in which case you may need to take the first step and ask her about it.

If you haven't yet advised her to leave him, and if she hasn't made that decision yet herself, then you should absolutely speak up. (Sidebar: I do understand that the abuser could be female, but for the sake of simplicity we will just assume it's a man -- same stuff applies either way, though.) If she defends him or gets mad at you for saying something, she's in denial and that is something she'll have to deal with. But, the risk is worth it -- you could save her life.

Be prepared to be there for her when the incidents happen, and if she needs a place to stay when it's over, you should certainly offer your home. There is really not much you can do except listen when she needs you to, and continue being a good friend. You can also give her this hotline number if she wants to talk to a professional about it.

I wasn't sure if this answer would suffice, so I double-checked with my mother, a licensed therapist. I was surprised when she said pretty much the same things. She gets frustrated when she sees abused clients come in who refuse to leave their partners, but there is only so much she can do.

Good luck, and keep me posted. I really do hope she makes the right decision soon.

See all advice posts here, and feel free to send your questions here.

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