How to Respond When Your Friend Tells You She is in an Abusive Relationship
Domestic abuse is an epidemic in the United States with nearly 1 in 3 women experiencing Primary Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional or financial abuse) at some point in their lifetime. What can exacerbate Primary Abuse, leave a person feeling hopeless and isolated, and can contribute to severe long-term Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PSTD) is how victim’s friends, loved-ones and community treat her once she confides in them about her abuse. Get angry with her, reject or criticize her, or place unrealistic conditions on her and you may just contribute to the problem by immobilizing her from getting the help she needs.
To minimize “Double Abuse” of your friend or loved-one when she confides in you about an abusive relationship, follow these six steps:
- Listen over and over with a closed mouth and don’t place expectations.
- Accept her word as the truth and don’t interrogate her or make suggestions. She has far more information and intuition regarding her situation than you do. She needs time to process her experience. Clarity is the first step to healing.
- Empathize with her by putting yourself in her shoes and don’t criticize her for her choices.
- Validate her by mirroring back what you understand without undermining or opposing her. Tell her nothing she has done is deserving of maltreatment.
- Identify by finding a parallel experience, but without shifting the focus from her.
- Encourage her by offering your support without placing conditions on her, tell her you believe in her ability to make good choices and ask what you can do to help.
“Double Abuse” occurs when a person who is physically, emotionally, sexually or financially abused (called “Primary Abuse”) reaches out for help and, instead of being received with compassion, empathy and acceptance by her support system, she is ostracized from her family and/or community, or subjected to judgment, ultimatums, or incorrect therapeutic treatment or incorrect spiritual pressure or advice.
The MEND Project, a nonprofit organization focused on ending Double Abuse, offers a comprehensive pathway for victims in their various communities to access empowering tools while supporting alleged perpetrators in finding proper accountability.
For more information, please visit: https://themendproject.com.