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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all. I feel like I'm more of a 'reader' than a 'writer' usually, so this is kind of a personal question to ask of you all, since you don't really know me, but I really need advice...I'm really at my wits end here. One of my very best friends has been in an emotionally/verbally abusive relationship for over a year. It even escalated into physical abuse in one instance (she ended up w/a split lip, kicked in the back, and had a bucket of cold water poured over her). For most of the relationship they lived together out of state, but now they're both living in the same town as I do, and I see what their relationship is like. And it's horrible. He is sooo controlling and mean to her, and she is sooo upset and walking on egg-shells (pardon the figure). She can't do anything right, but she tries. And keeps trying. He threatens to hurt himself is she won't forgive him his 'mess-ups.' She feels responsible for him. And she seems to need his approval.

Saturday, this guy (who, by the way, is very intelligent, fun to be around, and quite charming and wealthy) called her and broke up w/her over the phone. She'd hung out w/me all day, against his 'wishes' and when she called to see if he wanted to meet us for dinner, he yelled at her. He claimed he was dumping her because she is a loser (she's living w/her parent's to save $), she hasn't graduated college (she's working in her dream job already, though) and she's fat and dumb (DEFINATELY not true!), etc... She sobbed to me that he's always putting her down like that (I've heard about many times like this from her) and that she's scared of him, and that she doesn't know if he'd ever really let her go. She says that he loves her more than anyone ever has or could... She said that she doesn't want to be one of 'those women you see on Lifetime,' but she already IS in my opinion. I try to tell her that she deserves better, but she keeps saying that he's the best, that when he's good he's ever so good and that makes up for everything ( but also implying that when he's bad he's horrid).

Sunday, she called me to see if I wanted to go to the movies w/ the two of them. She apparently begged for 'forgiveness' and he graciously took her back. I didn't go w/them. I was fuming that she was happy!

So. Should I just hang out with them, and make sure that he doesn't do/say anything against her when I'm there? Should I tell her I won't hang out w/him anymore? Should I tell HIM what I think of him (we've been pretty friendly in the past, like I said, he's fun)? CAN I do anything more to change her mind and make her understand that it's NOT OKAY to be w/someone who yells at you and threatens you whenever you do something he doesn't like??????
 

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Have you told her straight out exactly what you see? If you're tiptoeing around the subject she may think everything is normal... if you tell her that she is one of those women, that he is abusing her and that it is NOT on, that she is stupid for being with him etc then maybe she will see. Sometimes it takes a big jolt to get these people out of their self-destructive habits... to her, it's probably normal now... I also think you should talk to an authority figure about it, whether that be her parents (if she gets along with them), a counsellor etc. This is a BAD situation...
 

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veggiewriter,

I can't give a ton of advice here, but I think it is important that you hang out with your friend and show her how her relationship is NOT normal -- that people who care for each other do not put people down, or especially hit them. Abusive S.O.'s have a tendency of isolating the abusee so that that person feels that she is not worthy of anyone else's love -- that she is so lucky to have him that she should put up with the crap he puts her through. That she will never find anyone else.

Having real friends can help remind that person what it is like to be treated with respect, friendship, and love. It may at least spark the understanding that she deserves more & that her relationship is *not* healthy.

I think it would be most beneficial to hang out with her when he's not around, since he's likely to be all nice with you there & that will just add to the "pro" list of staying with him. I am relieved to hear that she doesn't live with him, at least. It still won't be easy to leave him, but it will be easiER.

I would say be honest with her about what you've observed, but try not to dwell on it during every moment of your time together else she might get defensive & not let any of it sink in. The more fun she has with you, the more likely she'll see the contrast between FUN and the the horror and stress of being with him. Maybe when you invite her out you could invite other people she might enjoy hanging out with, too, so that she can rediscover what a healthy social life is like?

Just some thoughts... hope they're not entirely useless.

Good luck,

Mskedi
 

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This is defenitly the time to talk to your friend outright. Telll her exactly what you think of her situation and her s.o.(b.). It might help her if you would, during time alone together, take her to a domestic violence/women's center. There are many free resources and peple to talk to, but she may need some urging to get her there. Abuser's never stop with just one incident, and as it goes on it will be harder to reach out to her. It is not an easy issue to deal with, but if you are a close friend with her, she just might believe you over him. Perhaps you could offer her to stay with you for a little while, it might help in the transition.
 

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I understand what you are saying the only thing is even if you do talk to her she loves him and she has been attatched to him for awhile. In this case she might not want to listen to you becuase in her head she made up her mind about what she wants. It might take a little more than that for someone to listen. I mean I know this from experience it takes a little more then just telling someone. EVen if they see it they love the person they are with and choose to ignore it because they dont want to hurt the one they love. I am sorry if I didnt help you but in my opinion thats a possibility she might listen and thank you either way one day she will but sometimes it takes women the hard way to listen to something they dont want to belive. I am sorry if that didnt help!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for your responses. It helps, voicing my frustration.

My friend and I are actually apartment hunting this week (we used to be roommates, and hopefully will be again soon). I should have a few hours of one-on-one time w/out the boyfriend so I can talk to her then.

What do I do, however, if she's completely offended by my criticism of him? I've told her that he doesn't treat her well, and that she should stand up for herself, etc... before, but we haven't really ever used the 'abuse' word. It IS a valid term in this case, though. Very. But if I sprung it on her, I don't know that she'd take it well. And I don't want to isolate her from me; I'm probably her closest/best girlfriend in the area. I don't want her to feel as though she only has him!

Actually, I DID talk to her mother about the situation this weekend. She seemed somewhat concerned, but she did say that there's not much you can tell adult children, even when they live with you, that they'll take to heart. I was disappointed by her response. But, it IS true, you just can't MAKE someone see your point of view---you can't make someone believe that she is worth so much more if she really doesn't think she is.

So frustrating... I'm going to keep trying, though. In a dangerous situation as this, I just can't leave it up to chance. And I don't want this to continue until they're married and have kids (she's thinking that'll all happen in the next two yrs). Maybe some books would help. I should go scour the library...
 

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If the guy is striking her, splitting her lip, kicking her in the back, etc., these are criminal acts. One question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to become involved in being a witness to these or similar criminal acts. If you do, then you had better start documenting them as much as possible, including taking pictures, etc. Another question I would ask: did this woman seek medical treatment for these injuries? If so, are there any medical records or documents relating to these injuries? If she went to see a doctor, what did she tell the doctor about how she sustained such injuries? Did she lie? If she did not seek medical treatment, why not?

I think you can advise this woman to stay away from this guy. I think you can advise this woman to seek psychological help, go to a women's shelter, etc. But ultimately if she wants to continue to see this guy, that's her choice. What is your role then? I think that unless you want to be a co-masochist with this woman, you need to set a time limit--say, 60 days--and then just cut her off. Otherwise you are just "enabling" her victimhood.

Ask yourself: Are you a part of the problem? Or a part of the solution?

P.S. I see from one of the later posts in this thread that you are thinking of moving into a living situation with this woman. I think that would be highly inadvisable, but that's your choice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I have actually been worried about the 'enabler' role... But I don't want to abandon her; she really needs friends other than him. I really can't see myself cutting her out of my life, though. She needs a support system. Then again, I don't want to encourage her relationship... I wouldn't want anyone to abandon me...

She never went to the doctor for that instance. She didn't have insurance at the time, and she didn't feel that the assult had actually hurt her...

I've worried about us moving in together again... I want to be there for her, but I don't want to be surrounded w/the drama of HIM. And I don't want him in my house. But I want to be there for her. I don't know...
 

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In my honest opinion the worst thing you could do is cut her off. She needs you and no matter what she will need you. tell her exactly how you feel she might be mad but just tell her what you tell us you dont want to lose her friendship you are there to support her and give her help that she needs. If it gets to bad you need to get proof and imediate help for her I mean if he still hits her more because I think you said it only happened once. Then get proof and bring it to the police she might be mad at you for a little while but in the end she will see you only had her best interst in mind and that its untimatley the best thing for her because she wont feel the NEED to be with him, then again everyone is different but thats how it happened for me and in the end my friend and I got along better then ever before it just takes time.
 

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There may have been other instances of abuse that she is not telling you about aside from the one physical encounter of which you know. Victims of abuseoften hide really humilliating things. Having been in an abusive relationship, I feel I have some experience ( although every situation is different) in this matter. I have lost friends because I did not want to believe what they were telling me. On the other hand, I felt betrayed by the people close to me who did nothing, even after witnessing my abuse. I respect my friends who had tried to help, even though we're not friends any more ( I had lost a best friend of 10 years). If your friend will not listen or get help, it's best to step back, let her call you when she's decided to leave. It's hard to say, but sometimes something terrible has to happen before an abuser is stopped. I didn't leave my abuser until I couldn't work for two weeks with black eyes. I had never felt so embarrased/stupid/ashamed for not leaving him before that point. ( for the record- I did have him arrested)
 

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This is my area of research in psychology so here is my take on the situation.

Please be careful that you do not start a conversation by telling your friend what a horrible person he is. She is going to get defensive and isolate herself further. I completely disagree with Joe (with all due respect) that you are an enabler. The boyfriend is the one with the problem as is society for having such a high tolerance for domestic violence.

Women with abusive partners are in a cycle and it's sometimes hard to recognize because while this guys does awful things to her, he is not 100% bad 100% of the time. Acknowledge that there are some good qualities about him. He knows how to manipulate things. Your friend is often giving the hope that things will get better. It's almost like an alcoholic that has to hit rock bottom before they will do anything.

As hard as it is to watch, the worse thing you can do for her is tell her to leave. By doing this, you are trying to exert control over her just like her boyfriend. Ask her why she stays. You'll get more insight into the situation then asking why she doesn't leave. The reasons women stay in abusive relationships are complex. Tell me she has the power to choose. This is empowering for a woman in an abusive relationship. Listen to here concerns. She may feel like the police or the justice system wouldn't believe her if she wanted to bring charges. She is right. The police and justice system are not empathetic to victims of domestic abuse. Contact a victim's rights group in your area for help.

Just be her friend. Provide her with resources but give her the choice. Find someone you can talk to you as well.

There's a really good book by Lenore Walker called the The Battered Woman that discusses this topic.

I know it's frustrating and you want to shake her until she comes to her senses.

Good luck to you. Keep us updated.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by veggiewriter

I have actually been worried about the 'enabler' role... But I don't want to abandon her ... but I don't want to be surrounded w/the drama of HIM. And I don't want him in my house. But I want to be there for her. I don't know...
Perhaps you should contact a women's shelter or whatever other programs they have for abused women in your area, and ask the counselors or other people who run these things the questions you have asked here.

Another thing you might do--though this would involve fibbing, I suppose--is go to an Al Anon meeting and tell them that the guy and your friend are both drunks and he abuses her when drinking. If you phrase your problem that way, you may get some good advice on how to draw appropriate boundaries--either in the meeting itself or afterwards. Sometimes they have groups that are just for women.

BTW, when I said "cut her off" I didn't mean not to talk to her.

I meant pretty much what punkmommy just said: "If your friend will not listen or get help, it's best to step back, let her call you when she's decided to leave."
 

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There's good advice iin all of those messages.

I'm worried about you thinking of moving in with her, though. You *would* be surrounding yourself with her drama & his hurtfulness, and you need to take care of yourself before you can successfully help others. Otherwise you would be an enabler -- you'd be comforting her (or telling her what to do) every time there's a problem, which would lead to her not having to make any changes.

My experience is with verbal/emotional abuse -- which is PLENTY, let me tell you -- but that on top of physical abuse is plain scary. I hope you are able to help her and support her when she decides she needs help & wants to leave, but until then it is *her* issue and you should not make it yours as well. You can care about her and help her and be her friend -- but her roommate? It just sounds dangerous.

But then, that's your decision as well.

Mskedi
 

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Ick. I've been in this situation before and all I can say to help is that you should definately tell her how you feel. After I finally broke up with that jerk-wad all my friends came out of the woodwork and told me how relieved they were because he was so abusive bla bla bla... but the thing was none of them EVER told me while we were going out! Not a word. I know it should seem obvious, but for some reason I didn't see it that way. If my friends had all taken me aside and told me that they were worried about me and that they felt my boyfriend was being abusive I'd have ditched him much sooner I think.

As irritated as I was that my friends never said anything about his abusiveness to me, I have to say that they were completely there for me afterwards. It was a very hard break to make. An abusive partner will systematically isolate you from your support network so that you feel you'll have no-one to turn to if you leave, and you stay for fear of being alone. My friends were wonderful as they supported me throughout all of the tears and would not under any circumstances allow me to consider taking him back.

Later on I got involved with a guy who was not the textbook case abuser in that he was not controlling or manipulative at all, but he did get sort of violent when he was drunk. Again I didn't really see it. It wasn't until one of my friends told me I should report him to the police that I really got my wake-up call and I broke it off immediately.
 

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No...do not hang out with the two of them. I think you can give support to your friend as a person. But do not support her being in this relationship as it is. If she asks, I would explain it to her exactly like that. That she is always accepted and acceptable by you and that you love her (in other words, she's welcome in your life at ALL times). but that you will not support the unhealthy relationship she's chosen by making yourself a part of it. I think it's important for her to really know that you support HER. Just not what she's chosen for herself...because she really can do loads better.

And really, that's all you can do. She's going to have to do the work of figuring out why she needs/wants to be in a relationship that is emotionally so devistating for her, and occasionally physically hurtful as well. And it seems like she does 'need' to be there for some reason. Most of us...(mho, at least, and not everyone will agree) choose relationships like this for a REASON. It's not accidental. But she is going to have to figure that out on her own and that may take some time. All you can do is be a very supportive friend. And offer her help every step of the way.

Good luck.

B
 

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As something that I was able to do once, that you may be able to something similar...

One of my friends was in a debatably bad relationship (no hitting/yelling, but other things). She wanted to see a play, I took her. The play itself was about a female in a relationship that was exactly like hers (my friend didn't know the plot, she just knew someone in it). About halfway through it she made a comment of "why would any woman put up with ___ like that?" Fortunetely I was able to make comments that could be taken either as 1) why in the play, or 2)why in her life. Long story short, she realized later on that night about her relationship and ended it (still saw, but as friends).
 

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my sister in law is in an abusive relationship, and she stays there because she does think that he may or will get better, "if only" X, and "because we're together." turns out, *she* is also an enabler. she not only enables his drug abuse and other related behavoirs, but she also enables her own abuse by going back to him again and again.

so, how is it on the outside, right? tough spot. On the one hand you want to shake her into admitting that there is a problem. But it's a tough cycle for her. She holds out hope that things will get better. And, lots of the time, he treats her pretty well. And honestly, she doesn't have a lot of self esteem, so there really is no way for her to "stand up" for herself.

i would recommend that you spend time with her, without him. And, document as well--that was good advice. At some point, she may need/want a Protection From Abuse order (legal order, like a restraining order, but easier to acquire) and all the evidence that she brings about immediately will get her that order more quickly.

Also, have an escape plan ready for her. You don't have to tell her about it. That's not necessary. We have an escape plan set up for my sister in law, and we have not told her about it. It involves a lot more people than she thinks!

here's how her escape plan goes:

ryan and i have told our bosses that we may need to jet to grab his sister as soon as she wants to leave him. we've told them that it could be any time when we get this call, and we're going as soon as we get it. meaning, they'll have about 10 minutes of notice that we're leaving.

in my case, i teach a lot of yoga classes as an independent contractor. i have friends who are also yoga teachers. i told them about the situation and each day for each class, i have one teacher who can sub for me with 30 minutes notice of the class time. Also, employers have been notified that i may have to cancel class if the call comes too close to the time of the class.

next, we have the rental van place in order. we have a standing reservation for some kind of van, and they're connected to a myriad of other rental places. They wuold be able to get us a van in 20 minutes from the time that we call them.

next, we have the police in our town, her town, and her parent's town all notified of the relationship, it's problems, her probation status, and all other pertinent information for her removal from one town/county to another.

We have the phone list and phone tree. As soon as we get the call from her, we then call her parents, the van place, our employers and coverage people. One of my coverage people then calls the police in all three towns. I call my lawyer; her parents call their lawyer and her lawyer; her parents call the probation officer.

within 25 minutes, we are on the road to her house. We've set up a meeting place--where plain clothes police will pick her up and take her in a protective custody. She knows these police officers, as they have been called to her apt in this town for domstic dispute and drug-related arrests. It will take us 1.5 hours from the time we leave to arrive, and 2 hours for her parents.

We will then go with the police to the apt, where we will pick up some of her belongings. From there, her parents should arrive. They will accompany her to the police department for the PFA order, which is already ready for filing and execution.

we will then take her belongings to a storage place near our home. I have a job ready for her, as well as a room until an apartment becomes available. The apartment rental place is ready to give her the first available lease after the escape plan. Her parents are going to cover the fees and 3 months rent--after which she will be on her own for expenses, etc.

After we've unloaded the van, her parents will bring her our direction. We will then meet with the police in that town, her probation officer, and our lawyers. We'll set her up with protective orders in our area, as well as panic numbers and a series of other supports available in our area.

As you can see, it's no easy task, but we have it basicly fixed up so that she can disappear from him in a day. everyone of importance (particularly the police) has a clear understanding of the situation, and we send them weekly updates of her status. (Thanks, also, to the police officers in her town, who have gone beyond th4e call of duty for us--and her--in this regard, increasing the security in her neighborhood).

She's at the point now where she switches between wanting to leave him and wanting to stay. Last week, we were ready to go (she called us and wanted to leave), and we set the plan in motion. by the time the police got there 30 minutes later, she had already changed her mind. They called us on our cell (which we got for this purpose) and we put the plan to a halt. Then, thank you notes all around.

it may be a good idea for you to talk about things like this with people whom you trust. You may find allies in her family, who are equally concerned for her. but, other than being there for her (with clear boundaries), you can only wait this out. And, you and her family may be able to help each other.

For instance, you could be her family's point person in the whole ordeal to get him away from her.

Also, for informative purposes, it never hurts to call the police non-emergency number and get information about how these things work in your area, what protective orders are available to her, and how she can get them. You may also want to talk to a lawyer and find out what you can do on that end.

Women's shelters and other similar women's organizations are great resources for information not just for abused women, but also for their friends and family. They can help you help her in ways that you can't necessarily figure out on your own.

But, you kinda have to do all of this on the side--without her knowledge. And, it is ok to talk to her about him--but make it generous. The women's shelter can help you with how to phrase questions--something like this:

instead of: i think he is abusive.

you would say: how does it make you feel when he does this? or do you think it is appropriate to treat others the way that he is treating you?

and so on. but again, the women's shelter/organization can really help out. So can the police in your area, particularly those who are trained to work with these sorts of situations.

Remember, there are lots and lots of people out there who want to help, and you can connect with them without her knowledge, or you could say "i was concerned about you, so i asked these people for help in how i can be a better friend to you" and so on.

I hope this helps! BTW, if you can help her family make an escape plan, it will help them feel more empowered when the time comes for them to help. This way, we're not enabling her while she's in the relationship, but we have everything taken care of for her once she is ready to go. when laurel mentions to us that she wants to leave, but doesn't know how. . .we tell her that we are ready to help her and the process is very simple--that she doesn't have to worry about it.

eventually, she'll either die or she'll get out of there. That's pretty much the nature of these relationships.

Good luck! be well and happy!
 

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Zoebird,

Wow... your detailed planning is really a testament to your love for your sister-in-law. I certainly hope she has the guts to get out of that situation and you can put your plan into action! My friends all know I will drop anything for them in a heartbeat -- but beyond that I've no idea what I would do. Your plan is inspiring!


Good luck,

Mskedi
 
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