FRIEND SUPPORT AREA
Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Abuse is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors that a person uses against their current or former intimate partner. It happens in relationships where the abuser and the victim are (or were) dating, living together, married or divorced. It is a purposeful behavior - the pattern of which is directed at gaining and maintaining control over the victim.
1 in 4 women* report experiencing this in her lifetime. Note that this is only mentioning the reported cases.
*National statistics show that domestic violence primarily impacts women. Feminine pronouns are used here when referring to victims of domestic violence and masculine pronouns are used when referring to perpetrators. We are using gender-specific pronouns to keep the writing simple and clear, but we recognize that the issue is not a simple one. Sometimes the perpetrator will be female while the victim will be male. And of course, domestic violence can happen in same sex relationships as well.
You might not be able to see firsthand how your friends and their partners treat each other behind closed doors. But there are clues to watch out for if you suspect a friend might be in an abusive relationship. Domestic violence comes in a variety of forms including physical abuse, financial abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.
Here are some warning signs of an abusive relationship that you can look out for with your friends. If you see any of these warning signs with your friends, we have tips to help you start a conversation about it. People who are being abused may:
Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner, go along with everything their partner says and does. They also check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing. You may even witness them receiving frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner or talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy or possessiveness.
People who are being physically abused may have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”, or they may frequently miss work, school or social occasions, without explanation. Sometimes, they will dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)
People who are being isolated by an abusive partner may have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident. You will see major personality changes (eg. an outgoing person suddenly becomes withdrawn), or they may be depressed, anxious or suicidal for no apparent reason.
People who are being financially abused may have limited access to money or credit cards and will certainly have their spending tightly monitored and restricted by their partner. You will notice them worrying excessively about how their partner will react to what are commonly thought of as simple, everyday purchases.
If you suspect a friend or family member is in an abusive relationship, talking with them about it can be hard. The most important thing you can do is to let them know that they have support and options to leave the relationship. It’s important to remember that you can’t “rescue” your friend from an abusive relationship. Although it is hard to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person being hurt needs to be the one who decides to do something about it. It’s important to support and help her find a way to safety. Here are some easy ways to help start the conversation:
Offer support without judgment or criticism. There are many reasons why a victim may stay in an abusive relationship. And, many reasons why she might leave and return to the relationship many times. Let her know it’s not her fault and that she’s not alone. Respect her decisions, even when you don’t agree. Do not criticize or make her feel guilty – she needs you to be helpful, not hurtful. Things you can say include:
“It’s not your fault he treats you that way.”
“I know this is difficult to discuss, but please know you can talk to me about anything.”
“You are not alone. I care about you and I’m here for you, no matter what.
“You are not responsible for his behavior.”
“No matter what you did, you do not deserve this.”
Don’t try to make any decisions for your friend because it implies that you think she’s incapable of making good choices for herself and it may deter her from confiding in you in the future. Instead, focus on offering support and encouragement.
Don’t be afraid to tell her that you’re concerned for her safety. Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse while acknowledging that she is in a very difficult and dangerous situation. Say things such as:
“You don’t deserve to be treated that way. Good husbands and partners don’t say or do those kinds of things.”
“The way he treats you is wrong. Men should never hit or threaten the women they love.”
“I’m worried about your safety and am afraid he’ll really hurt you next time.”
Avoid confrontations. There are many reasons why individuals experiencing abuse don’t reach out to family and friends. It’s important to recognize if she is ready to talk about her experiences while offering support.
“I’m here to help and am always available, even if you don’t want to talk about it now.”
“I want to help. What can I do to support you?”