The Hardest Part
updated 31 August 2023
by Wes Cowell
There is a very large, efficient, smoothly-operating justice machine that handles issues of domestic violence every day. It is chock-full of very intelligent, experienced, committed professionals: lawyers, prosecutors, judges, social workers, police officers, volunteers, and more. The problem? Victims oftentimes have a very hard time accepting their reality . . . and they avoid the justice machine altogether.
A psychologist I sometimes work with explains the problem this way: He says: "You can take a guy off the street and tell him to go down a dangerous alley with dangerous gunfire, and that guy will say "no." He'll run in the opposite direction having made a rational decision to preserve himself.
You can take that same guy, put him through boot camp, and THEN tell him to go down the dangerous alley. Then, that guy will stand up and say "Yes, Sir!" And he'll go do it.
The difference . . . is three months of abuse.
That's how abuse works. It disables the victim from being able to oppose his/her abuser. For that soldier in the conflict, the most difficult thing in the world would be to oppose his commander. For the domestic abuse victim, the most difficult thing in the world would be to oppose her abuser.
Abuse Victims: Abuse Victims can get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Hours: 24/7. Languages: English, Spanish and 200+ through interpretation service.
Text START to 88788
visit their website
Supportive Friends: Helping a friend in an abusive relationship can be challenging, but it's essential to provide support and assistance. Here are some steps you can take to help your friend:
Listen and Be Non-Judgmental: Let your friend know that you are there for them and that you are willing to listen without judgment. Encourage them to talk about their feelings and experiences.
Educate Yourself: Learn about the different types of abuse (physical, emotional, financial, etc.) and the signs of an abusive relationship. This will help you better understand what your friend is going through.
Respect Their Choices: Understand that your friend may not be ready to leave the relationship, and it's essential to respect their decisions. Avoid telling them what to do, as this can make them feel isolated or defensive.
Offer Support: Be a consistent source of emotional support. Reassure your friend that you care about their well-being and are there to help whenever they are ready to make a change.
Help Them Explore Options: Encourage your friend to explore their options, such as seeking help from a domestic violence hotline, counselor, therapist, or a local support group. Offer to help them find resources and provide transportation or childcare if necessary.
Safety First: If your friend's safety is at immediate risk, you should prioritize their safety above all else. Encourage them to contact the police or a domestic violence hotline. If you believe your friend is in danger, do not hesitate to call the authorities.
Respect Their Privacy: Keep any information your friend shares with you confidential unless they give you permission to share it with others. Trust is crucial in helping someone in an abusive relationship.
Help Create a Safety Plan: If your friend is considering leaving the abusive relationship, assist them in creating a safety plan. This plan should include steps for leaving safely, gathering important documents, and finding a safe place to stay.
Stay Connected: Maintain regular contact with your friend, even if they are not ready to leave the relationship. Isolation is a common tactic used by abusers, so keeping the lines of communication open can be essential.
Encourage Professional Help: Encourage your friend to seek professional help, such as therapy or counseling. Professional support can provide them with tools and resources to cope with the situation.
Be Patient: Remember that you can't "rescue them." Understand that it may take time for your friend to make a decision about the relationship. Be patient and continue to offer support without judgment.
Self-Care: Supporting a friend in an abusive relationship can be emotionally draining. Make sure to take care of your own emotional well-being and seek support from a counselor or support group if needed.
Remember that you are not a replacement for professional help. Encourage your friend to reach out to domestic violence organizations or mental health professionals who specialize in this area. Your role is to be a caring and supportive friend, but the ultimate decisions and actions are up to your friend.