What can you do
You might hope that you can be a "fixer", by showing care and support, but the truth of the matter is abusive relationships are highly complex. This means that ‘fixing’ them is not easy and while you should not let this discourage you from continuing to support your friend, you should not pressurize them or yourself. Falling into feelings of hopelessness, powerlessness and depression are common in these situations but you can fight this!
It may take just one time to leave their partner, or it may take 10. Whatever the number may be, try to stay strong for your friend and be there when they find the courage to leave the abusive environment they are in.
If your friend is being abused, then they most likely know very little kindness in their daily lives. Try to tell them positive aspects about themselves to boost their self-esteem and give them more confidence to be independent.
Supporting a friend who keeps returning to a dangerous relationship can be traumatic for family and friends who may feel helpless, upset or even angry. No matter how you feel, understand that the trauma and abuse your friend experiences (as illustrated above) are the reasons why they return to the relationship.
If we remember these points at all times, we can be a better friend and eventually support them in leaving their abusive relationship for good or help them cope with it.
Creating a safety plan for the home
Your friend is experiencing physical abuse, and is at a stage where they are slowly starting to realise that things won’t change for the better. But if she hasn’t decided to get away once and for all, you can suggest some practices so that they can avoid physical assaults as much as possible. Some questions you could ask them with regards to their space are: When your friend is experiencing physical abuse, other forms of abuse can be present at the same time, they might already realise that the situation will not change for the better.
But if they haven’t decided to get away once and for all, you can suggest some practices so that they can avoid physical assaults as much as possible. Some questions you could ask them with regards to their space are:
- How can you feel safer at home?
- Is there any room in the house that can be locked where you can resort to in case of an emergency?
- Can you somehow modify the room where most of the violent episodes occur (e.g. kitchen, bedroom) so that you will avoid getting sandwiched between the furniture?
- Are there any emergency exits that can be used in the house?
- Can you hide some potentially dangerous objects?
You can also suggest that they create a emergency bag - a bag stashed somewhere or with someone (with a person of trust such as yourself) containing money (in cash) for a hotel or for a cab, with important documents, such as their ID card, passport, marriage certificate, birth certificate, and a few clothes. You may wish to hide photocopies of these documents, rather than the originals, to avoid suspicion. You may want to agree on a code word, sentence or action that is only known to you both so she can signal when she is in danger and cannot access help herself. It should be something very common which cannot be interpreted by people around her.
We’ve said this before, but it’s useful to make sure your friend has thought of the following things if they are thinking of leaving. This is not an exhaustive list and we will be updating this with input from survivors!
- Finding out about divorce, protection orders and child custody laws, and how they are enforced. More specific information can be found on Chayn Pakistan, Chayn India and local women’s organisations might be able to give you guidance on how to proceed.
- In case your friend decides to leave the shared living accommodation, they will need to arrange a time when the abuser is not present and have a trusted person present to help them remove their belongings.
- If your friend decides to remain in the house, they might want to secure their home, e.g. by changing locks or adding additional ones.
- A relative or friend such as yourself should stay with your friend for some time.
- If your friend has children, they should learn the house address and your friend’s personal phone number. They should also know the number of any other trusted person or organisation that can be contacted in case of an emergency.
- Your friend may have to change their phone number or phone.
- If your friend has children, think of arrangements to increase their safety when not at home.
- A change of any place that your friend regularly finds themselves at (e.g. shops, place of worship, workplace) and the routes towards those places when they are easily accessible and known to the abusive partner.
Never take action on behalf of your friend without their expressed consent or without considering their wider social and societal circumstances. Be sure to be safe!