This is the final installment of my series on how to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In this blog, I suggest you can honor DVAM by helping a current or former DV victim.
Current domestic violence victims may seem hard to understand. They may come to you in a moment of crisis, and tell you very sad, frightening, or angry stories about the abuse they are suffering. You may be shocked and horrified by their story. You may even find it hard to believe, especially if their partner seems wonderful to the outside world. You may have one of three reactions. The first is to act horrified, the second is to disbelieve what they are telling you. Neither of these responses will help your friend. Try to just be a listening ear, without judgement. Thirdly, you may be tempted to tell them what to do. Please resist this temptation. Their life is marked by someone who tells them what to do on a daily or even minute by minute basis. They don’t need another person telling them what to do. You will do the most good by helping to build their self-confidence; telling them you have faith in them. Assure them you are there for them, you care for them, and you are willing to help (if you are). Don’t make promises you cannot keep; instead be honest with them about what you would be willing to do for them.
Be aware that the cycle of violence usually moves from the explosive stage (when a victim will most often come to you for help), to the honeymoon stage, when the abuser will become very loving and treat the victim wonderfully. At that point your friend will probably be embarrassed s/he ever spoke to you, and try to take back everything s/he said about the abuser. If you are prepared for this, you can try not to speak badly about the abuser, which your friend will probably not want to hear. Your friend may take years to leave the abuser. In fact s/he may never leave. This can be painful for you to watch. Try to be patient, and remain a steady, caring presence for your friend. If s/he is interested in getting help, my Get Help page has emergency phone numbers, and informational websites and books that might be helpful.
Do you know any former victims of domestic violence, those who have left their abusers, i.e. survivors? If these friends have recently left their abusers, they may also act in ways that seem strange to you. They may be depressed, when you might expect them to be happy. They may be wishing they were back in their abusive relationships. They may be addicted to alcohol or drugs, or having PTSD flashbacks. Or, if they have been apart from their abusers for many years, you may be surprised at how little healing they seem to have done. They may still be intensely angry and unforgiving toward their former partner. Their home, children and finances may be a mess. They may be isolated from friends, family and God. No matter what stage your friends are in, try not to judge their decisions or emotions. What they need now is a friend. They may also need someone who would gently recommend some good resources to them. I have written many blogs that might be helpful to you and/or them. Here is a list of several blogs I’ve written about healing after abuse. I also invite you to check out a sample chapter of my upcoming book, A Journey to Healing After Emotional Abuse.
No matter what position your friend is in, you can be a blessing to her/him. As it says in Proverbs 17:17:
A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
Being there during this difficult time in your friend’s life will speak volumes about your friendship, and about the care God gives during hard times.
Thank you for being available to those who are or have suffered from domestic violence.
May God bless you and your friend.