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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Abuse & Assault » Helping a friend in an abusive relationship

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Author Topic: Helping a friend in an abusive relationship
Scarleteen Volunteer
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I have a good friend named V that I've known for more than ten years. We actually were "enemies" for a while in college when I started dating her ex (without knowing that he'd been stringing her along so he could still sleep with her after breaking up with her, as recently as a day or two before he and I started dating), but after I broke up with him we reconnected and have been close friends for the past decade.

8 or 9 years ago, she moved across the country to live with her boyfriend. I visited twice, in '05 and '06, and my opinion of him was that he was ruder to waitstaff than I find acceptable but honestly I didn't interact with him much so I didn't think much of it.

In past years, though, she's started getting in touch with me every once in a while upset at how he treats her. My understanding is that he is very emotionally abusive to her, insulting her a lot and withholding affection most of the time, and then will be sweet every once in a while (typical abuser pattern!). Any time she tries to ask him to get help he just says "NO you're the one who needs help" and because she does struggle with depression she feels like she can't argue with him.

Late last year she did tell me she was thinking of making an exit plan, with the big obstacle being finances/housing. They have several dogs and cats together and she'd want to take most of them, but she is a vet tech and doesn't have a lot of money (he is a programmer and makes much more than she does). She doesn't think she'd be able to stay in Seattle even without pets and worries that she'd have to move in with her parents, who live in rural North Carolina where there are few job opportunities. So she feels really stuck financially (I think he holds this over her head as well).
The last time we talked, she said "how did you break up with [mutual ex]? I can't imagine leaving anyone." I know she has problems seeing herself as worth much of anything (and she is SO FABULOUS y'all, it breaks my heart) and I think she feels like she doesn't deserve anything better.

I am just at a loss what to do. I know it is not helpful to say HE IS TERRIBLE GET OUT GET OUT so even though that's what I want to do, I don't. I do point out that his behaviors are abusive and not ok. Tonight she got in touch with me again and she's away from her computer for the moment but when she gets back I think I have a sense of what I'm going to say to her:
  • I love her and want to help however I can
  • It's not ok for anyone to treat someone the way her boyfriend treats her
  • She's welcome to stay with us for a while if she ever needs to (I realize the pets make this less likely, but it would still be all right)
  • Remind her that I work from home so can pretty much ALWAYS spare the time to chat with her online or on the phone
  • Tell her I'll start leaving my phone on/in the bedroom if she has a crisis at an odd hour
  • Let her know that if she ever needs me to I can come visit for a few days - I don't have to stay with her but it might help to have an ally close by for a while?
I know about DV hotlines, but do they take non-physical abuse cases? I feel like I should be able to find these resources on my own but I'm kind of scrambling frantically right now. If anyone has thoughts on Seattle-area resources I'd love to hear them. Or any other ideas of what I can do to be helpful. I just... I'm crying thinking about my wonderful friend. I feel like this terrible person is crushing the life out of her.
Posts: 1352 | From: San Francisco | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Scarleteen Volunteer
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Ugh. So sorry.

I don't think I can help much in the ways you need, but I do think you're on the right lines.

I'd suggest also specifically telling her the things you think are great about her (unless this seems to distress her or be too much for her) and why you value her as a person and her company, and also emphasise that her mental illness and any of the resulting things do Not mean that she deserves to be treated any less well than anyone else, or that she's any less valuable than anyone else. I, at least, needed to be told those things tens, hundreds, of times, before they began to sink in.

I can't speak for the US specifically, but generally, I would blooming hope that DV hotlines take non-physical cases, as any quality DV org knows that other kinds of abuse are also very damaging.

The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

Posts: 1786 | From: Europe | Registered: Sep 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Scarleteen Volunteer
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Thanks, Redskies.
I'm a little worried because we started talking tonight, I had to go make dinner and said "I'll be back in 10-15 minutes" and it was more like twenty, and then she didn't show up again... I left a bunch of messages for her which I hope might help.

Even though she did tell me, before I went to make dinner, that he has never hit her, the fact that she hasn't checked back in (even though she said she'd be around) is making me feel really twitchy and anxious. I hope she just went to bed or is distracting herself away from the computer and is ok. Argh.

Posts: 1352 | From: San Francisco | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Be aware that her boyfriend might be checking her messages and/or might be not allowing her to respond. My ex got very angry if I talked to anybody. It was terrifying when she found a months old string of Facebook messages from a friend. It sounds like you don't live near her? I would call her when he is not around, if you can figure out a way to do that at all. When you're talking to her, ask her if it's safe for you to leave her messages. You can also call a dv hotline yourself, they can help you figure out how to help your friend.

Has she used the word 'abusive' when talking about him to you? If not, i would not use it yourself, but absolutely reinforce her if she says she feels like he doesn't treat her well or is mean or whatever.

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Member # 101944

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oh, a good way to ask if it's safe to leave messages might be "Hey! Is it okay for me to message you all the time? You've said that [boyfriend] gets angry with you a lot and I didn't know if he checked your phone. I don't want to put you in a difficult situation if he gets angry when seeing your messages. I really want to be able to talk to you though, so can we come up with a plan to talk on the phone (or some way that is more difficult to trace)?"

If he does check her phone, can use a pay phone? She can delete her call history, but will a suddenly blank call history make him suspicious?

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Scarleteen Volunteer
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Tate, you make a lot of good points! I think she kind of waffles on identifying this as abuse; I try really hard not to say that directly (although it is tough). I definitely let her know that the behaviors she tells me about are not ok, though.

My understanding is that she doesn't have privacy issues on her computer, but I'm not sure; I'm going to double-check next time she's around. I do not know if her boyfriend is checking her phone or computer but that's a really good thing to look at. As far as I know, he at least doesn't mind that she talks to me.

Posts: 1352 | From: San Francisco | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Nicholas Chan
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Oh Molias that sounds very trying for the both of you..

I'm so sorry I can't offer more help or even think to be as physically present as offering to phone her purely because I live so far from your area, but you certainly have my support and listening ear.

It seems like you're a very solid friend of hers, especially for her to choose to turn to you when she needs a friend most.

You should be commended for how seriously you take that responsibility (which is not an easy one) by taking all these extra steps to make sure things turn out okay for her.

It's been a month or so already, so I hope things have worked out for the best for her.

And just to add on to what the others have said,

From how you describe her, it's likely that she may even get into the idea of blaming herself for this abuse and how he treats her, and I think that's where you can be most helpful.

Because if she's ever going to truly stand tall and build a life with or without this guy (if there's no way they'll resolve it) in the long-term, she needs to get into feeling worthy enough to love herself.

And on a final note, please remember to take care of yourself too!

Many a time the people who try to help end up neglecting themselves as they get more emotionally invested and it ends up hurting them deeper than they realize.

I hope you don't mind my asking but has it gotten any better this past month?

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."

Posts: 9 | From: Singapore | Registered: Mar 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Just wanted to throw out some links I've found in searching for hotlines for Seattle: (this organisation lists non-physical aspects of abuse in its abuse checklist and has a toll free number, giving them a call might be a place to start in getting advice for you friend) (this looks like the government hotline) (this site specifically encourages friends of abuse victims to contact their helpline and they look like they could also be a good resource)

Again, like Redskies said, any hotline worth its stuff for DV should recognize calls about emotional abuse. I hope these help, if I find anything else that seems super relevant I'll let you know.

Posts: 245 | From: British Columbia, Canada | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Executive Director & Founder
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I only just noticed your friend was local, Mo.

The YWCA branches here are fantastic with helping people out of abuse of every kind, including with things like housing. So, that's one more resource to ping her to.

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Scarleteen Volunteer
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Thanks to everyone who's given me some more ideas and resources to look into. I really appreciate it. =)
Posts: 1352 | From: San Francisco | Registered: Jan 2013  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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