How Can Friends Help an Abused Woman?
It can be very painful to be a friend or family member of an abused woman. Watching a friend go through abuse can make you feel frustrated and helpless. It may seem very obvious to you that your loved one should leave her abuser. You may wonder why she won’t leave him, and may even try to make her do so.
Unfortunately, as you may have already discovered, you cannot force a woman into a decision like this. Neither can you make an alcoholic decide to stop drinking, or an obese person go on a diet. Even if she leaves her abuser at your prompting, she may return to him.
So, what should a friend or family member do when someone they love is being abused by her partner? Doesn’t it make sense to tell her how you feel? Isn’t it right to explain that she shouldn’t allow someone to treat her this way? Doesn’t she need your help right now?
Yes, she does need your help, but not in the way you might think.
Here are some steps that I pray will be helpful to you:
1. Try not to focus on how you are feeling. Yes, it is true that you may be feeling frustrated, helpless, and probably angry at her situation. She may be feeling all of these things as well. However, she probably has many other feelings, such as confusion. She may be confused as to what is the best thing for her family, her mate, her children, and her future. She may love her abuser, and be unable to picture her life without him. She may be tied to him financially, and have a hard time envisioning life without his income. If she is married to her abuser, she may be afraid that God will be angry with her if she leaves him. She may be appropriately afraid of him, and realize that her life is in more danger if she leaves him than it is when they are together.
2. Educate yourself about abuse. For example, are you aware that victims leave and return to their abusers 7 times on average? There are many great ways to become more educated about domestic violence. Visiting websites such as this one is a good start. I recommend the National Domestic Violence Hotline website, (here is their link), and Jeff Crippen’s website, Crying Out for Justice, where he talks about spiritual abuse, (click here for the link).
You can also become trained as a domestic violence advocate. Local women’s shelters around the country often offer training for people from the community. Sometimes they require people to volunteer for their organization after the training, but not always.
3. Be supportive of your friend:
a. Don’t judge her or her choices. And don’t bad-mouth her abuser. When you speak badly about him, she may feel like she needs to defend him to you.
b. Don’t tell her what you think she should do; her abuser is already doing that. Instead, help her think through her options in a non-judgmental way.
c. Don’t give her any ultimatums. If you say something like, “If you go back to him one more time, I wash my hands of you,” then she won’t be able to confide in you anymore. Even though she may not make the choices you would wish for her, or make changes in her life as quickly as you would like, she may still need your help at some time in the future. By resisting the urge to tell her what to do, you will remain a safe person for her to come to when she is ready. Ecclesiastes 4:9,10,12 says:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up…though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.