If you have a female friend who is in an abusive relationship, you know it is an extremely difficult situation. It’s painful to watch someone you care about suffer, and it can be frustrating to see her voluntarily endure the abuse. While the choice to leave is ultimately up to your friend, there are things you can do to help her along the way.
In abusive relationships, women are typically forced into physical or emotional isolation by their partners, and become alienated from their friends and family. Making sure your friend knows you are available for her when she needs you is an important first step. Express to her that she can confide in you, regardless of the situation – and back it up through your actions. Let her know you care about her and will always be there to listen.
Many women in abusive relationships not only have trouble ending them, they also tend to return to abusive partners repeatedly. Though watching your friend subject herself to this can be frustrating, be accepting when you interact with her, and don’t tell her she’s wrong or foolish for her behavior. If your friend isn’t ready to leave the relationship, you can’t make her, and pushing her to do so will only make her feel more isolated. Understand that she may genuinely love her partner despite the way he treats her, or may be afraid to leave him; the decision to leave isn’t as simple for her as it is in many relationships.
A good approach is to try and help your friend acknowledge that the relationship is abusive. Many women either don’t initially recognize that their partner’s behavior is abusive, or they are in denial about it. Express your concerns to her, and let her know you’re only worried because you care. Point out specific examples of abusive behavior, and help her understand that such things do not occur in a loving, healthy relationship. If her partner is making excuses for his behavior, explain to her why they are unjustifiable, and let her know she deserves better.
Realizing that she is involved in an abusive relationship will probably not be an easy thing to accept. If you need help convincing her, there are written resources available online which describe abusive relationships, list abusive behaviors, and outline characteristics of both partners in these situations.
If your friend is able to recognize that her relationship is abusive, let her know that you want to help her stay safe. Help her come up with an escape plan for times when her partner becomes angry or violent, and offer her to take her out or let her stay with you when this happens. If she is open to the idea of leaving, help her figure out where she would go. There are a number of crisis hotlines and women’s shelters that either of you can utilize if you need additional help.
Helping a friend through an abusive relationship isn’t easy. Once she gets through it, however, you’ll know you helped someone you care about, and she will know you are a true friend.