Social Question

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Is there anything you can do to help a loved one in an abusive situation?

Asked by ANef_is_Enuf (25308points) August 8th, 2010

I think this is something we all deal with at some point. You know someone, possibly someone very close to you, that is in a terrible situation.
Specifically, I am talking about violent physical abuse. I think it is very common for a victim to defend their abuser, but is there anything that can be done from the outside to break that cycle?

Or is this one of those situations where you have to just lend a shoulder and cross your fingers that the person sees what is wrong before it’s too late?

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15 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

I have never seen a violent abuse situation get better it only gets worse especially when the victim attempts to distance themselves from the abuser. I have seen one abusive realtionship get better when both people quit with the alcohol and drugs. Addictions and abuse often go hand in hand.

All you can do is let them know you are there for them…be a safe haven for them and check in on them frequently. Be ready to call in outside help if need be.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

too heavy of a question for a Sunday afternoon? 4 GQs, but 1 reply. Things that make you go hmmm.

JLeslie's avatar

The one line I typically use is, “If I was telling you this story, what would you tell me to do?” Meaning, I try to get them to be more objective about their situation, and see how the abuse they are induring is unnexceptable. Outside of that I try to show no judgement, and let them know I will be there for them, love them, and try to build their ego and confidence as much as possible.

Buttonstc's avatar

Print out the phone numbers of a domestic abuse hotline as well as any local resources of which you’re aware on a 3×5 card. Hope that she might use it at some point in the future when things get worse (as they inevitably will).

Perhaps hide it inconspicuously where only you and she know where it is, lest her abuser come upon it accidentally.

Other than expressing your concern to her, realize that you don’t have the power to control the actions of another fully grown adult. In this case, sad but true.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I used to work in a battered women’s shelter, I agree with what @Buttonstc said, as well as a few things. If there are children in the home, try to use that fact to appeal to your friend to get help, very often abuse escalates to include the children. Also, try to keep an eye on the progression (without going nuts yourself!) and don’t put yourself into potential danger, you are no good to her (I’m assuming it’s a woman) if you get hurt or killed by the abuser. There are probably good resources in the community, try to learn about them.

Buttonstc's avatar


Excellent point about the children.

Even if they are not physically harmed, there is no question that they will be affected for the rest of their lives. The boys will grow up likely emulating what they see.

Worse yet, the little girls will follow in their Mother’s footsteps ending up in abusive relationships of their own. This is how they will see relationsips because this is their lifelong norm After all, if Mom tolerated it all these years, that’s just the way it is. They will have no vision for healthier alternatives nor how to seek them.

Even verbal only arguments and shouting impact children and hurt them far more than most couples realize because children usually don’t have a voice.

Dr. Phil has a very accurate way of describing this for fighting (verbal ONLY) couples.

“When you fight in front of your children, it changes who they are. ”

Those are powerful words and absolutely true. Their personalities begin to change and they become different the longer the exposure. If that’s true for only verbal exchanges, how much more is the damage when it’s physical.

If you can find any articles on the web from solid sources backed up by research, this may give her some motivation.
Try the Dr. Phil site for starters and I’m sure you can find others.

Sometimes a Mothers instinct kicks in and will cause her to act in a healthier way for their sake more than for her own.

At some deep seated level, without any therapy for insight, there is a part of herself which believes she is not deserving of better. But the kids certainly are.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

While you are both absolutely right about children in the home, luckily there are none in this case. None in the home, anyhow. None that even visit the home that I know of.

GeorgeGee's avatar

My sister was in one of those bad relationships. I offered to go pick her up and help her move, but my (then) wife talked me out of it. She said that my sister needed to make the break and move on her own or she might later resent the “help” and move back in with him. So she did move on her own, and got an unlisted number and never saw the jerk again. Much though I would have been happy to have gone and gotten her, I think it was the right thing for her to leave on her own.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Yes, a person has to leave on their own. They are addicted to the abuser (and the abuse) like a junkie on heroin, or a smoker. If they don’t make the choice on their own, they will go back when they’re in a weak emotional position and it’ll be that much harder to leave.

JilltheTooth's avatar

There are many more reasons that than for not leaving. Financial hardship is a very real problem for women who don’t have resources of their own. Fear that the abuser will take out his rage on loved ones, even those not still in the home. The idea that the abuser won’t kill them if they stay, but will if they leave, etc etc.

soozaloozakpow's avatar

One of the most important things you can do to support this person is to offer unconditional support. It can be frustrating, confusing, and painful to see a loved one stay in or return to an abusive relationship. These feelings will often result in withdrawing support. Its understandable why people reach their limit when it appears a loved one is making no effort to change their situation, but the dynamics of an abusive relationship must be considered. Abuse is all about power and control and an abuser will do everything possible to keep the upper hand. Verbal and emotional abuse chips away at the victims self-esteem until they feel they deserve the abuse, they can’t do any better, and/or can’t survive on their own. Physical abuse and threats make them fear for their safety should they leave (statistics show women are most at risk after leaving). There is added fear if children or pets are involved (fear for their safety and if they are able to flee with them). Abusers usually try to isolate the victim and gain greater control. They will work to destroy the relationships victims have with family and friends and prevent them from working so they are always at home. Abusers control the finances so victims do not have the resources to leave or start out on their own. Abusers usually know how to appear like the perfect partner to those outside the relationship and to persuade victims into returning with promises and seemingly changed behaviour (honeymoon period).
As others have suggested, you should gather as much information on resources as you can so your loved one knows the options available (transition homes, shelters, community services, etc…). If at all possible, they should stash some money (could come from grocery money). They should have any important documents and ID for themselves and for children if applicable, kept together and easy to grab when leaving.
Make sure your loved one knows you are there for support regardless and they can turn to you at any time.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Money and a place to go are not an issue. Children are not an issue.

I guess the real issue is that she is hiding it from us. She appears to want out, but she won’t give us an opening to offer help. This is honestly the most shocking and violent case of abuse I have ever heard of personally.

I think the fear is what will happen when she does leave. She has a place to go. She has places to go, for that matter. Money is no issue. I am not even supposed to know about the abuse at all, so it’s difficult to open that dialogue and offer support. Not that I wouldn’t.. I just don’t know how to go about doing so when no one is supposed to know. I’m afraid that she is standing on the edge of a cliff and if I don’t do something she will fall. But I’m also afraid that if I make a move, she might jump.

Thanks to everyone for sharing, I really, deeply appreciate it.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Take her in, protect her, get her into therapy.

rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t think you said anywhere but I assume there are drugs and/or alcohol involved and the best place for her to be is alanon. It is anonymous, no one judges or tells you what to do, they share their experience strength and hope and by listening to how others do it you learn also. I would simply let her know that you know and offer to get her to a meeting. I would take the chance on her reaction whatever it might be.

partyparty's avatar

Have you been told by a friend or a family member she is being physically abused, or have you seen the bruises for yourself?
If you can actually see the bruises, then why not ask her where they came from?
I am certain she is a very frightened person, and she needs to know there are people who are looking out for her.

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