What can you do
Out of care and confident that you can make their lives better, you might think of yourself as a ‘fixer’ 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 her 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 she finds 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 they return to the relationship. It is never the survivors’s fault, but the abuser.
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. Here are some practical things to think about.
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:
- 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 created a first aid kit - a bag stashed somewhere or with someone (to a person of trust such as yourself) containing money for a hotel or for a cab, with important documents such as their ID card, passport, marriage certificate, birth certificate, and a few clothes.
We’ve said this before, but it’s useful to make sure your friend has thought of the following things if she is thinking of leaving. This is not an exhaustive list and we will be updating this with input from survivors!
- Finding about divorce, and child custody laws
- Researching about how to apply for a restraining order and whether that is a good idea in their situation
- In case your friend decides to leave the shared living accommodation, they will need the presence of a police officer so that your friend can get their belongings out of the house unhindered.
- If your friend decides to remain in the house, they will need to change the locks.
- 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 local police’s number in case of an emergency.
- Your friend may have to change her phone number, and even make it unlisted.
- A change of shift at the workplace and informing her colleagues not to give the abusive partner any information.
- A change of route, and if possible, means of transport, to and from work.
- If your friend has children, inform the school that the abusive partner has no legal rights to take them.
- If the abuser is extremely violent, then the children should change schools.
- A change of supermarket, place of worship or anywhere which is easily accessible and familiar to the abusive partner.
- It is wise to inform some of the more reliable neighbours about the issue and ask them to call the police in case they realise your friend is in danger.