Helping a friend in an abusive relationship

September 5, 2009

Given the statistics, it’s likely you know someone stuck in an abusive relationship. What do you do? How do you help? These are tough questions.

I’ve personally called the National Domestic Abuse Hotline [1.800.799.SAFE (7233)] when I was so worried about someone that I wanted to drive her directly to a shelter. I needed to take action on her behalf ASAP, but that’s not what she needed.

Much to my surprise, and dismay, I was told that would be counterproductive. The hotline counselor, experienced at helping callers like me, calmly explained that the best thing I could do was have the “victim” call the hotline herself to talk out options.

Here’s what else I’ve learned. It’s important to listen to your friend and tell her how much you care. While you may want to bash the perpetrator, don’t. It creates 2 problems: your friend will shut down at a time she desperately needs a friend; and she will rebel against your advice because subconsciously she is tired of being ordered around. This requires a lot of patience, especially when your friend continually returns to her abuser.

Why does she return? When your friend entered her love relationship it was a safe place. Now she’s struggling to understand what’s really happening and, thanks to her abuser, she’s confused and her self esteem has been chipped away.

If she feels safe talking to you she may put the pieces together and, as she starts confiding in you, its okay to remind her she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. It is this approach that will help her shift out of denial and break away. What a gift you will have given her!

Watch this msnbc video for some more tips. Visit this page of my website for more resources.

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