Dos and Don’ts of Helping a Friend in a Bad Relationship
by Melisa Cammack
It can be heartbreaking to watch someone you love suffer through an abusive relationship. You may want to do something about it but aren't quite sure how.
Here are some tips on what you should do and what you shouldn't do when you confront your loved one about leaving her abuser.
Approaching Them Initially
When you begin the conversation, stay as calm as possible. Don't use harsh language. That may scare your friend away or put her in a defensive mode. Be sure to approach her in a neutral, calm and semi-private environment. For example, if you start off by attacking the person she loves, and you call the abuser a jerk or whatever assortment of names you want to call him, of course she will see it as insulting her spouse or boyfriend and close off. Instead, talk about how you don't think he treats her as well as you think he should, and talk about how wonderful and cherished she is to you. Express your concern without backing her into a corner.
Point out Concern, But Remain Positive
While the talk will bring up negative aspects of her life, you should also focus on the positives the abused person has that are all her own. This may be her job, her children (if she has children), how much she brightens up your day, or simply her attitude. Let your friend know that you are in full support of her and that you believe she is capable, intelligent, and can make this change to leave her abuser. Your kind, positive words will go a long way in her thought process, bring her courage and help build up her self-worth. Many women who are abused suffer from low self-esteem. They are constantly belittled and told they’re worthless, so you need to build this up little by little so your friend feels like she is capable of leaving.
Build a Network of Support
Don't assume you can do this all on your own. As noble as it is that you want to help someone you love, you may need professional help. Have a plan set up. Your friend may need a place to go, somewhere safe where she can’t be immediately found and coerced back into her abusers arms. Consider a hotel room set up in someone else’s name, the police station, a shelter for abused women, even a friend’s home. But, if she and her abuser have children together, you may need to seek legal counsel before making a move.
Your loved one may need help from the police to protect her (and her children) if the abuse is that extreme. She may also need therapy or counseling to overcome the abuse that she has likely become accustomed to. You can support her through all this, but if you are not a professional, you should help her to find someone who is. You need to be realistic about the situation. Leaving an abusive person can cause the abuser to become even more angry and abusive. Be prepared for the worst, and make plans on how to handle the situation.
Ultimately, it’s Their Decision
Do not pressure your friend into leaving her abuser. If she does not leave by her own free will, she will likely go back. Unfortunately, she might be returning to an even worse situation since the abuser will want to isolate her from people who encourage her to leave, and she may be punished for thinking of leaving at all. Unless the abuse is bad enough to get the authorities involved, allow your loved one to make the decision.
There is only so much you can do, unfortunately, so don’t put yourself in danger or do anything too drastic. You can reach a point where you could be seen just as pushy or controlling as the abuser by your friend, and make no mistake, her abuser will most likely put that in their head.
In the end, do what you can. Be supportive, don’t be pushy, be a steady point for her, let her confide in you and get help from others. Neither one of you has to do this alone.
Melisa Cammack is a writer promoting The Law Office of Bradley R. Corbett in San Diego.
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Abuse is more common than you think. Leave your thoughts below in the comment section at the bottom of the page.