I have a friend who has been with a guy for several years. Their relationship started out seemingly perfect but over time seems to be less so. She doesn’t seem as happy, she doesn’t hang out with us much anymore, and she says that things are fine. I hear them arguing from time to time and know that she sometimes cries herself to sleep. My friends and I have talked to her about our concerns that he belittles her, seems to make all of the decisions in the relationship, and is not okay with her having other friends. She minimizes things and talks about the good in the relationship. How do we know if this constitutes abuse? He doesn’t seem to hit her.
Signed, Don’t Want to be Just a Bystander
Thanks for being a good friend. This is a very serious matter and has the makings of an abusive relationship if it’s not one already. Here are a few things to do and not to do:
- Assure her that it is not her fault.
- Assure her that she deserves to be respected and that there is nothing that she could do or say that would make her deserve abuse.
- Remind her that she is not alone.
- Don’t tell her to leave. This likely won’t go over well with her and may also be a dangerous option.
- Don’t blame the victim. Domestic violence is a crime.
- Don’t ask her why she did or didn’t do something you think she should have.
- Recognize that she is afraid and provide support.
- Don’t force her to talk about the situation if she does not want to.
- Refrain from giving advice or telling her what to do.
- Give her resources on campus or in the community that can help her including the Loras College Counseling Center and Waypoint.
All too often victims of domestic violence are made to feel shame as the result of a society that blames the victim. If you believe that someone is in an abusive relationship and they confide in you, take it seriously. Help the person see that she was courageous and smart in asking for help. Abusive relationships are often about power and control. Respect and a non-blaming attitude is key to someone getting the help that they need.
Again, that you for being a good friend.