In my peer counselor type role, I've gotten a lot of people asking me what they can do to support someone who is in an abusive relationship.
Sometimes, we hear what not to do (ie believe what they are saying, don't give them ultimatums and demand they leave, be patient, ask them what what they need/want, etc), but I think its very useful for some people to hear exactly what IS often helpful from people who have experienced abuse first hand.
For those of you who have been in an abusive relationship(s), what helpful things did people around you do while you were still in the relationship?
When I was in an abusive relationship, one of my closest friends (who had figured out what was going on, in part due to the fact that she had been in an abusive relationship two years prior) would hug me every day at school and tell me that she loved me no matter what. Knowing through everything that she cared, even though I wasn't ready to even admit that anything was wrong, was by far the best thing anyone did during that time. She just let me know that she would be there when I was ready to get help.
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In high school, I spent hours on the phone with my best friend at that time. She wasn't really local any more but just a phone call away (cell phones weren't quite as widespread then so it was on the old-skool landline.) I credit her support as the main thing that got me through the tough time after the relationship ended; I was really confused and knew something was wrong (I found it more convenient and unfortunate to blame others like family versus the ex!) but she helped me I was 'crazy' or imagining things as bad when they were actually ok (no way!) Same for when I told an acquaintance about it afterwards, a friend from the bus, who immediately went, "Hmm, yeah, that doesn't sound right" referring to the ex's behavior.
I also went through a pregnancy scare at the time and it was this one image of hers that really sticks with me. He more than flaked out (and my family banned me from seeing him and him from seeing me, even though I kept seeing him secretly for a bit.) My best friend said, "If he really cared right now, he'd be there outside your window. You know I would be there." While she physically wasn't there to do it, I knew she meant it and it helped me put things in perspective. (Sorry, Shakespeare! Romeo, move over to make room for my best friend!)
I like your example, atm1! My family did what they could, which didn't feel the best at the time. When I came out to them about the pregnancy scare, they immediately stopped me from seeing him (in theory, as I said above, it took me a bit longer) because they knew something was wrong that I didn't realize at the time. As sucky and painful as the time was after that, I felt a huge and immediate sense of relief that the relationship and the hard secrets were over. I wish my parents would have given me regular hugs and told me how much they loved me nonetheless. In reterospect, they wish they had handled things a bit differently but they were really scared and unsure themselves.
At college, I found a very supportive group of people. It was one night where some hallmates and I were, well, lounging around the hall shooting the breeze when my relationship came up. One woman very gently but directly pointed out, "You know, that sounds like rape." It was the first time someone had put that title on what had happened and while it was hard to admit, it was good to put a name on it.
Good topic, atm1! This was a good exercise in thinking about something tough from the past but in a fruitful, positive way. I know that when I think about abuse, it's a feeling or process of going from victim to survivor. There was certainly awhile when I felt very weak compared to a "strong" abuser; however, when you think about it, the abuser is the weaker one... s/he can deal out abuse but can't truly stand up in a brave way (like the guy being too chicken to come support me in a time of need.) It's ourselves, in addition to support people, who are truly the strong ones... Hmm, some new ways to think about old stuff there for me!
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