Trust your instincts, though. You know your friend. And from that encounter in the store, you know that something is definitely wrong. So please, don’t be afraid to follow up with her.
Start with a phone call. But ease into it: Don’t immediately launch into how you think she’s being abused, or anything like that. If her abuser’s at home when you call, she won’t say anything of substance, anyway. You simply want to convey the message that you’re concerned and want to help. Keep your words loving and gentle—and pressure-free.Say something like, “I know you’re busy now. But when you have a few minutes to yourself, give me a call. I’m worried about you and want to help. I love you.” Keep the call brief, but be clear: You’re worried, you want to help, and you love her.
If she doesn’t call back right away, call her again. Keep reaching out to her. Try to reach her when you know she’s alone or at least away from him. Remember, your goal is to help, not endanger her any further.
Be prepared for her denials. Shame, guilt, fear, and even worry for your safety will keep her from opening up to you. Just gently remind her that if she’s in the kind of trouble you suspect, she has no reason to be ashamed. You love and respect her, and just want to help.
The reality is that gentle persuasion may not work. Real intervention, possibly involving law enforcement may be required. If that’s the case, don’t attempt to handle this on your own. Involve other friends and family, and most importantly, seek professional guidance from the experts. Let the experts help you help her.
You need to know that an abuse victim leaves her abuser on average seven times before she leaves for good. So, even if your friend leaves this time, she may go back. This is where your friendship will really be tested. You’ll be disappointed and even angry that, after all the work you did to help her escape, she willingly goes back. And your anger is understandable.
But an abuser’s most lethal weapon is his ability to manipulate his victim’s mind. Breaking his hold on your friend will take time, patience, professional help, and a whole lot of hard work on her part. You just have to keep loving and supporting her, even when she disappoints you.
Try to resist judging her: It will only make things worse.
It’s painful to watch someone you love suffer domestic abuse. It’s also hard to understand why women stay with or return to the men that hurt them. But leaving is far more difficult than people think. Fear, lack of financial resources, and shame are just a few of the reasons women stay (or return). If children are involved, it’s even more complicated. Many women truly have nowhere to go. Shelters fill up fast and are few and far between. And sadly, as far as we’ve come in this country with regards to strengthening laws to protect women, it’s still way too easy for abusers to track down their victims and murder them. So some women just stay, hoping to survive another day.
As friends and supporters of abuse victims, we need to be more educated about the dynamics and mechanics of domestic violence. And most of all, we need to shed our own preconceived notions about the victims. They need our support and empathy. I learned that the hard way. I used to sit in judgment of women who stayed with their abusers, too. And I stayed on that high horse until the man I loved knocked me off with a punch.
Written by Janice Fuller-Roberts; Culled From Dame Magazine
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