This is a letter to the loved ones of the woman in hiding.
You know her so well, and you love her for many reasons. She is your friend, your sister, your cousin, maybe even your mother.
You found out in the weirdest way, and now you’re stuck with the knowledge that she is allowing someone to repeatedly bring her emotional and physical harm. You still remember the moment you became the woman with a friend or relative in a domestic violence situation.
I remember that moment too.
One of my dearest friends is still with her emotional and physical abuser. I feel for her deeply, as I imagine you do for your friend. If she’s anything like my friend, her spirit can be so freeing to experience, and she has such passion for what she does. Unfortunately, that fire she embodies is often hosed down at the doorway of her bedroom, or sometimes in her driveway for the world to witness, and for her to bear.
When a woman you know and love is in an emotionally and/or physically abusive relationship, it can feel like you’re witnesses the burning of a beautiful forest, and all you can do is stand there with your bucket of water, wishing it were enough to make it stop.
Please remember, she is not stupid, or “trippin”, or crazy. She is a A VICTIM. She is not emotionally well, so her decisions are misguided by her inability to imagine experiencing something better with someone else.
Equally important is the prioritization of yourself in all of this. Seriously, it is important you realize that you are now part of her equation, and her actions can affect your safety, as your actions can compromise hers.
3 Things You Can Do To Support Her While Prioritizing Yourself
1. Assess any potential harm. She is in harm’s way, and you might not be able to resolve that, but you can and should protect your own self. Abusers tend to feel threatened by people they see as potential influences in their victim’s lives. If her abuser knows that you know she’s being hurt, then you need to recognize that her abuser may dislike you, and if you think that compromises your safety, you may choose to create a healthy distance between yourself and her, as harsh as that may sound. Here are some examples:
- Make a more conscious decision about whether to talk and what to say when you’re on the phone.
- Don’t send her text messages about her situation, because if he sees it, it might put her at risk for an immediate outburst.
- Let someone in your life know. Choose wisely, because it call lead to harm, but you also need to protect yourself in case there is a threat of abuse directed at you.
2. Offer to help her create her I Choose Me plan. An I Choose Me Plan includes phone is her instructional sheet for what to do should she decide to leave the abusive relationship. It should include numbers of people and places she could call at any time, where she would meet them, what bag she has packed and where she keeps it. If she is willing to have this discussion, that is good; she is not in denial. If she is not willing to have the conversation, give her space, call in support (other family, the authorities when you deem fit), and just keep reminding her that she could choose NOT to live with someone who hurts her.
Here’s a safety packing list you could tell her to keep on hand: http://www.womenshealth.gov/violence-against-women/get-help-for-violence/safety-planning-for-abusive-situations.cfm
3. Do your own research on the psychology of abusive relationships. You can better protect yourself and your friend when you have a better idea of how abuse happens, and what emotions your friend might be experiencing. She will need plenty of compassion, so do not blame her or make her feel bad for not leaving. It takes time, and she may even leave and go back, repeatedly. This is not just about “making bad choices”, this is an emotional and psychological trauma that your friend is experiencing. You might be able to help her get out and pull through if you are more educated on the what and how yourself.
Do you have any tips of your own? How do you cope with having a loved one in an abusive relationship?
Life Design Practitioner and Certified Emotional Wellness Educator, Akilah S. Richards, creates live and digital resources for women seeking clarity, confidence, and courage in their Work-Life journey. She serves mothers and entrepreneurs ready to release fears and self-doubt, and use their natural gifts and talents as a means of emotional and financial sustainability. When a woman is willing to risk expression, she can rely on Akilah to help her design that Life of Thrive.