Do you think someone could be abusing someone you care about? Don’t just assume everything is okay because they haven’t told you. There are things you can do to help a loved one, even if they haven’t asked for help.
Maybe you’ve never seen a black eye or a busted lip, but something just doesn’t feel right when you are around them.
Understand—there is much more to abuse than black eyes and swollen lips.
If you or someone you care about is involved in an abusive relationship, help is available. Dr. Lonnie Bryant specializes in anger management and also helps victims of abuse. For those in the Fort Worth or Flower Mound, TX areas, he offers face-to-face counseling. However, he also offers online counseling for those who live too far away or would prefer not to leave their home.
Why doesn’t she ask for help or let us know?
She (or he) probably feels a lot like I did when I was being abused. During that time, I did everything I could to keep my family and friends from knowing. I lied, covered, avoided, and hid the bruises.
Her Reasons May Mirror Mine
In the beginning, I believed things would get better if I could just be a better wife. He blamed me for everything and somehow convinced me it was always my fault.
As time went on, he managed to completely isolate me. Unable to spend time with—or even talk on the phone to—my friends and family, I believed he was all I had.
My mom once told me I had made my bed, so I had to lie in it. It was my problem, and I believed I could fix it.
As things got worse, I became afraid for my family. Besides, I didn’t believe anyone could stop him. He was too strong—he told me he would hurt anyone who tried to stop him, and I knew he could. Since it was my “bed,” I had to rely on myself—no one else deserved to suffer at his hands.
He also let me know that if I ever left him, he would hunt me down and kill him. Since he already spied on me, followed me, strip-searched me, and knew my every move, I believed him fully capable of tracking me down.
Common reasons abuse victims don’t ask for help include:
- Shame and embarrassment
- Not wanting to burden others with their problems
- Don’t want to hear, “I told you so,” from people they care about
- Want to avoid judgment
- Worry people will blame them, believe it is their fault, or that they deserve it
- Fear that if they ask, no one will care–have already been rejected enough by their abuser
- Figure no one can do anything to help anyway
- Worry their abuser will hurt people they care about
How to Help a Loved One if You Suspect Abuse:
If you suspect someone you care about is being abused, try to get her to open up. Even just a little. You need to let her know you care, and she can trust you.
Don’t be afraid to talk to her. She most likely assumes you don’t want to hear about it. Let her know you are concerned and want to help.
She needs to know she is NOT ALONE.
Prepare for Your Talk
Before you talk with your loved one, think of ways you can help.
Could you help financially? Go to court with her? Give her a safe place to stay? Maybe you could babysit, take care of her pets, or offer a place to store her things.
Contact a local shelter to inquire how they can help. If she isn’t safe, she may need to stay in a shelter, which will keep her location a secret. Many offer free counseling, case management, and employment assistance for abuse victims. They can also help with a restraining order if needed.
When It’s Time to Talk
When you sit down to talk, be ready to listen and hear her. Be supportive and patient. Remember, this is extremely difficult and scary for her.
Don’t put her abuser down. Even though he hurts her, she most likely still loves him. Putting him down or saying he’s worthless will most likely just shut her down. And if she decides to stay with him, it will make her feel like she can never talk to you again.
Instead, focus on her and how much love and concern you have for her. Let her know everyone, including her, deserves love that doesn’t hurt.
Take Away Her Shame and Guilt
Don’t be judgmental. She has already judged herself enough. She also feels ashamed, responsible, and afraid. Let her know you don’t blame her, and that she’s safe talking with you.
Acknowledge she is in a very delicate and difficult situation. Let her know it’s not her fault. Don’t point out the things she’s done wrong.
Focus on the safety and needs of her children. Even if he never hurts them directly, seeing and hearing abuse is not healthy for them. This is one area she will most likely listen to.
Assure her she’s not alone. Plenty of people care and want to help. Offer to go with her to a shelter, a lawyer, or a police station.
Help her develop a safety plan. Encourage her to set aside money and important documents.
Let her know physical and sexual abuse are crimes.
Encourage her to keep a journal about any abusive incidents. Pictures are especially helpful. If she’s injured, make sure she goes to the emergency room and that they take pictures of her injuries.
Indications You May Need to Help a Loved One
- Their partner belittles, puts down, embarrasses, or insults your loved one.
- Your loved one cancels plans frequently, usually with half-hearted excuses.
- She apologizes for his behavior.
- You’ve seen him yell or curse at her.
- You know he breaks or hits things.
- She has frequent bruises or injuries she either can’t explain or gives lame excuses for.
- She stops doing things she enjoys.
- Her appearance dramatically changes—for instance, dramatic weight loss, which could indicate depression or substance abuse.
- When she’s not with him, he continually calls or texts to check on what she’s doing.
- She seems nervous or jumpy, especially around him.
How to Help Your Loved One Who Is the Abuser
If you suspect your loved one is abusing his (her) partner, it’s imperative to let him know his behavior is unacceptable.
- Don’t condone his behavior or even hint you think it’s okay.
- Call him out if he tries to justify his behavior by blaming his partner.
- Confront his behavior. Your silence makes him believe it’s okay.
- Convince him to seek professional help. Let him know he can have a healthy, happy relationship if he gets proper help.
- Support his victim any way you can. Let her know you don’t blame her.