It’s tough to watch a friend who is in an abusive relationship go through the chaos, emotional turmoil and physical injury. It’s even tougher to keep supporting them when they choose to stay. It can be emotionally draining, extremely stressful and even taxing on your own relationships while you to try help a friend navigate the storm. Never fear, the editors at Defense Divas ® have compiled a list of the healthy ways that you can support your friend who is experiencing domestic violence while still honoring your personal values and boundaries.
In order to help your friend, you first need to understand that power and control are the root of all domestic violence. When you truly understand the level of power that the abusive partner can have over a victim, you can understand why it’s so difficult for them to extract themselves from the toxic relationship.
- Fear: The victim could be literally scared to death of the consequences if they actually leave. If she’s had poor results with restraining orders in the past, she may be hesitant to get the legal system involved.
- Embarrassment/Shame: Victims often find it difficult to admit (even to themselves) that they’ve become “that girl”. A lot of victims have reported they also fear being judged by family members, friends and society. No one should be ashamed that they were abused, yet it is still taboo to talk openly about what is still considered “a private matter” in American culture.
- Falls into The Cycle of Abuse: In our previous article on domestic violence, we discussed the cycle of abuse and what takes place in the reconciliation phase. Pure and simple, your friend may still be a believer in the apologies and promises of their abusive partner.
- Financial Difficulties: The victim may be financially dependent on the abusive partner and the path of leaving looks impossible because they have no money or resources to start making their own.
- Religious Reasons: The victim’s culture or religion may strongly influence them to stay in an abusive marriage.
- Extortion: A common control tactic among abusive partners is to hold something private and personal over the head of their victims. It could be anything from threatening to send nude pictures of you to your boss; to sharing your deepest darkest secret all over social media. Either way, it’s about the power and control that keeps the victim bound to the relationship.
Now that you understand the obstacles your friend faces in their situation, what is the best way to support them and remain available to help when she’s ready to leave?
- Make a point of scheduling time for this friend. A large obstacle in domestic violence is the isolation it creates. Your friend may not feel comfortable reaching out to you because victims are frequently embarrassed that you know about their chaotic home environment. Make a point of calling your friend on the way home from work, for no reason other than just a friendly hello. Keeping this line of communication open will greatly help her to step out when she is ready to take the leap.
- Listen to your friend without any judgement. No matter how many times you have heard the same story on a different day about what he did this time- listen without judging her for repeating the cycle of abuse She needs to be heard. Her pain needs to be heard. If you show frustration because she did not leave the last time, you are burning a bridge that may be her last life line. You can be there and set healthy boundaries at the same time. You love her. You listen to her. You even pray for her. But you also respect her choices as her own.
- Encourage your friend. Send her lots of #GirlPower because the self-confidence of domestic violence survivors is usually just as beaten as their bodies. Build her up and let her know that she is strong enough to change her situation and be free of the abuse. Commit to send her one female empowerment text each day for the next 30 days. Watch and see how she begins to come alive again!
- Help your friend develop a safety plan if she is not willing to leave the dangerous relationship yet. Some things the two of you might put in place could be:
- A stun gun or pepper spray that she has hidden in case she needs to defend herself.
- A hidden stash of cash and change of clothes that only the two of you know about.
- A safe word between the two of you that means you are supposed to call 911 now!
- A written list of emergency numbers and assistance hotlines. Don’t just program these into her cell phone. Write them down on a piece of paper. He could 1) see them and blow a gasket, or 2) take her phone as a form of control and block her access to help.
- Buy her an emergency 911 operator panic button that can be used if she doesn’t have access to her phone during a violent outburst and needs 911.
- Plan a surprise girl’s day and sign the two of you up for a free self-defense class.
- Provide resources for your friend to be able to leave if she is financially dependent on her abuser. Have some plans in mind to provide her a temporary place to live, a part-time job or employment opportunity, and basic necessities. To look at the whole picture is too overwhelming for victims trying to figure out how to leave. Having a friend who can help put some of the puzzle pieces in place is a great help.
- Do not hesitate to report the domestic violence situation to authorities if there comes a day when you feel that your friend may be killed. Domestic violence tends to escalate as time progresses. It may be uncomfortable. It may destroy the friendship. It may even feel politically incorrect. But if your friend may die, don’t take any chances and get law enforcement involved yourself. It’s difficult to know where the red line is. Which time is the last? The best answer we can offer you is that you will have to gauge it against past incidents and trust your gut instinct.
Protect yourself today from domestic violence. At Defense Divas ®, we offer a diva-fantastic selection of self-defense products for women, including Bulletproof Clothing, Backpacks & Accessories, Stun Guns, Pepper Sprays, Tasers, Concealed Carry Purses, and more. Protect yourself today from an active shooter at work or school with our full line of bulletproof products. Learn more about women’s empowerment, self-defense and female personal safety at Defense Divas ®.
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