Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Intimate Partner Violence: We Get By With a Little Help

12 Comments

 

You probably already know even if you don’t know that you know. You know something isn’t right.  You suspect. Every time you invite your friend out they decline.  They never spend time with others if their spouse isn’t there.  They always defer to their spouse.  They spend an inordinate amount of time making sure their life looks perfect.

things we wish our friends knew but are too afraid to say out loud

Please listen to us.

We need you to listen to us.  We need to learn to trust because, frankly, we’re not sure we can.  Don’t take that personally.  It’s just that the most intimate relationship we have has taken that away from us.  The person we were supposed to trust with everything ruined that.

We’re not likely to just come out and say that we’re being abused.  Hell, we may not even know we’re being abused.  It may have gone on long enough that it’s our normal.  And even if we know it’s hard to admit to someone else.  We don’t even want to admit it to ourselves.  Just be there.  Ask probing questions but don’t pressure.  Listen as much for what we’re not saying as what we are saying.  We need a lifeline.

Please don’t tell us what to do.

We may seem confused.  We are.  But the last thing we need is someone else telling us what to do.  It is likely that our abuser controls most, if not every, aspect of our lives; from how long we spend in the bathroom to what clothes we wear.  Ask us what we want.  That encourages us to think for ourselves. We may not remember the last time what we wanted even mattered.

Please don’t judge us.

If we ever do get up the courage to tell you we need affirmation.  We don’t trust our own judgement.  There were some things that I had to be told were abuse.  Because I’d grown accustomed to it I didn’t realize what was even happening to me.  Coercion is a subtle, but destructive, tactic.  I had to be told that’s a form of rape.

Understand if we’re not ready to leave.  Understand if we never get ready to leave.  Don’t push us to get the hell out no matter how much your mind is screaming “get the hell out”.  Don’t assume it’s because we’re weak.  Encourage us to get help, certainly, but if you push us to leave we will cut off contact with you.  We can’t do that until we’re ready.

Don’t judge us for not leaving.  Leaving is an admission that it’s happening; that it’s real.  We likely told ourselves that this would never be us.  We’d never let this happen.  Likely we’ve denied that it is – to ourselves and to you – in a lot of subtle ways.

Please don’t look at us with those eyes.

Don’t look at us with those knowing eyes; the eyes of pity.  Don’t look at us like we’re a victim.  We don’t want to be victims.  Please don’t treat us like we’re victims.  Please just be normal around us.  Don’t make it awkward.  Talk to us about something else.

Please don’t give up on us.

I know it must be so hard to watch your friend stay in a situation you know in your heart of hearts is dangerous.  It must be awfully tempting to give up on us, to turn away, to throw your hands up in disgust, and just walk away.  Please don’t do that.  Please reassure us that you are there.  Give us a place to go.  Even if we don’t leave permanently we may need temporary shelter.  Please tell us that we can find shelter with you.

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October is domestic violence awareness month

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

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12 thoughts on “Intimate Partner Violence: We Get By With a Little Help

  1. Yes, many of us have accepted our abuse as “Normal Life”. Thank you for posting this, many people want to help but don’t know how. The best thing one can do to help the abused individual is to be their friend, listen and hug. Be their rock, someone they can trust. Don’t pity them. Don’t take over and make choices for them. They need to feel the power to control their own lives, they don’t need another controller in their life. Thanks for trying, even though we push you away. Don’t give up on us. Please! We need you! Meghan

    Liked by 1 person

    • {{{hugs}}}

      It isn’t that I didn’t know those things made me feel bad. It’s that I didn’t know what to call it. And with gaslighting I was always second-guessing and assuming that it was just that I couldn’t take a joke. I really did need a friend to help me see it for what it was.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can relate to so much of what you wrote about. Yes, we accept the abuse as normal. Yes, friends see but just avoid us with many excuses to stay away from us… until we split up then the truth gets exposed. No one wants to speak out or get involved. I never heard the word “abuse” until we were split up… Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did confide in a very close friend. I was terrified to do so. After our separation three other friends told me they were not surprised; that they suspected. They didn’t say anything because they didn’t think it was their place. They also dismissed the thought saying that I hid it well even though they suspected because of his temper.

      If there was one thing I could get across to friends it would be not to avoid, but find a safe time to ask some probing questions.

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      • I totally agree with you! I wish that our friends would have said something to me instead of backing out of our lives. Any “hint” would have helped. Too many of us think that verbal and emotional abuse is normal. Thanks for sharing.

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  3. That’s really helpful Ruth. It’s always difficult to know how to deal with a situation outwith our own experience. I suspect I’d still struggle to ask questions because I wouldn’t want to tread on someone’s toes or embarrass them.

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    • You do bring up a good point. It’s a delicate topic. There’s really no easy way to come out and ask a person if they’re being abused. And when you, as a friend, do broach the subject – even subtly – it must be in a place where the abused feels safe.

      What I had in mind were some more subtle questions.

      Here’s an example from my own situation:

      We were having a game night and had two other couples over for dinner and cards. During the card game my spouse set his glass over in front of me and I just got up and got him something to drink. Upon my return the other women at the table remarked about me being such a good wife not to tell him to get up and get it himself. They said how sweet I was. His reply, “That’s what you think. You don’t have to live with the battleaxe.”

      I laughed it off and it really didn’t hurt my feelings because I was used to that kind of thing. They sat there slackjawed.

      Later, when we were alone, would have been a good time for someone to ask me how often he said things like this to me and initiate a conversation. It would have been subtle and an opportunity for them to confirm that this isn’t normal behavior.

      Please do not get me wrong. I am not blaming my friends for not doing this. Like you said, it’s so difficult to know. But trust me, if you have a friend who you suspect is being abused she is probably dying for someone to throw her a lifeline. She most likely wouldn’t be embarrassed. She might do what I did and laugh it off initially because she wouldn’t be sure she could trust herself or you with her deepest secrets. But eventually, over the course of time and repeated conversations with you, would learn that she could.

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      • Ruth I am so British, I would really struggle with that. If someone gave me an entree, then maybe, but starting from cold?

        We went to a party thrown by his sister and BiL, years ago. There was a couple there who A knew so we spent the evening talking to them. When it was buffet time, I said, ‘I’ll get yours shall I?’
        ‘Thats a nice way to look after your man,’ said Barry and asked his wife to bring some food for him when I returned.
        A said, ‘Yeah, she’s good like that.’ But I did it for a number of reasons. I got to stretch my legs, I didn’t know Mandy and Barry so it left them able to continue chatting, and I am a total control freak about food/cooking even when it comes to just helping yourself from a buffet.
        At home whoever gets up for whatever reason asks the other if they want more food or another drink.
        It’s really about courtesy, so I guess in a similar situation, if A had wanted another drink, he would have got up and asked around the table to find out who else wanted more. As would I have done had I wanted another drink.
        That is not to say my marriage is perfect. After all, those are only made in heaven right? not Sydney Register Office.

        My ‘close’ friends ie from university are not religious that I know of, although got married in church, and I seriously doubt any of them, men or women, are abused. And we are geographically distant and unless I visit the UK, our contact is at Christmas/birthdays. In Gib/Spain my contacts are at the neighbour level.

        The nearest I ever got to being a listening ear was an internet friend who had a stalker problem. And it was draining for me, I dread to think how she felt.

        But the difference between us Ruth, is that you know all the signs. You know what to look for. I don’t.

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        • Oh, sure, And these were friends we were around quite a lot. It would have to be someone you’d observed regularly to see the dynamics of the relationship – certainly not someone you’d only met once at a party. I wouldn’t suggest to anyone to butt into a situation without having some suspicion. After I left these were the friends who said they were concerned – not just because of that one incident – but because of a pattern of behavior. The fact that I just so merrily went along was what had them thinking everything was a-okay.

          Also I want to be really careful here because I don’t want it to seem like any one of us who has been through this would blame our friends for even a nano-second. The reason I posted this was to let friends of people who they suspect are being abused know some ways they might approach the situation, not to be critical of the fact that they haven’t.

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        • Thinking a bit more about your comment I’m prompted to also say that this post wasn’t intended to make anyone go out looking for signs. It wasn’t intended to criticize anyone for missing them. It was more to encourage anyone who might already suspect a friend is in trouble not to be afraid to initiate a conversation. It may only be one conversation, and the friend might not be ready to open up, but she would know that if and when she is she could count on you to believe her.

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          • I don’t for a minute think your post was critical. It came across rather as ‘if you think someone may be suffering from abuse, don’t be afraid to ask. Just do it gently, don’t judge, and don’t tell them what to do. Just be there for them.’

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          • Oh, good. That’s exactly what I intended. I just wanted to make sure my subsequent comments to you didn’t seem harsh either.

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