An abusive relationship can be difficult to recognize and even more difficult to end. According to the World Health Organization, “about 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.” Domestic violence is a very complicated issue that reaches every corner of our society. Regardless of class, race, religion, culture or wealth. Although in the majority of the cases it involves a male perpetrator and a female victim; men, children, and the elderly can also fall victims to domestic violence.
Domestic violence is complex due to the various social and psychological factors involved that create a power imbalance. When there is a power imbalance, power can be abused. One of the main reasons domestic violence is so prevalent is because of our society’s tolerance towards it. It is not taken as seriously, and we ourselves often turn a blind eye towards abusive relationship.
It can be frustrating and scary when you realize someone you love and care for is in an abusive relationship. Often times victims themselves don’t realize the abusive behavior or how to get out of it. Here is what you can do to help:
Simply Start a Conversation to Voice Your Concerns about the Abusive Relationship
Start by simply talking to your friend or loved one in a private setting. Be positive, and make them feel comfortable and appreciated. Once they are comfortable, you can calmly voice your concerns to them. Offer them steady support and be someone with whom they can talk to openly and comfortably. Instead of panicking or blaming them, try your best to stay calm and make them feel safe so they can open up and feel comfortable seeking your advice in the future.
Be a patient listener. Allow your friend or loved one to pen up on their own terms and avoid being forceful with the conversation. It will likely be difficult for them to talk about their relationship. Reassure them that they are not alone and that you want to help them in whatever capacity you can.
Recognize Unhealthy Behavior in the Abusive Relationship
A lot of the times victims don’t realize what is happening to them or why it is wrong. Direct your conversation towards recognizing the unhealthy behaviors in the relationship. Be mindful of not using labels such as “abusive” to push the seriousness of the situation. Although this may seem like a normal thing to do, it can actually be counter intuitive. It may cause your friend or loved one to shut down. Instead describe the particular behavior you have noticed and ask your friend how it makes them feel. You can also voice how that behavior might make you feel. the goal is to help your loved one understand for themselves what kind of behavior is and is not acceptable.
No one likes to be viewed as a victim, so when you are trying to help, it is important you don’t get judgmental. Instead keep the conversation balanced by talking about your own experiences. This will let them know that they are not alone. Be mindful of keeping the focus on their situation instead of getting derailed.
The goal of this conversation is to help your loved one understand that the behavior they are experiencing is not normal. It is NOT their fault their partner is behaving this way. It is likely they may feel responsible for the abuse, but everyone is responsible for their own behavior, and abuse is never ok.
Give Them Room to Make Their Own Decision
Avoid telling your friend or loved one what to do. Instead simply give them a safe space to make the decision themselves. You have to understand that in many cases of abuse victims feel a sense of loyalty or bonding to their abusive partner. Even if the decision seems clear cut to you, it is much more complicated for the person in the relationship. So don’t be forceful.
Offer your loved one options but don’t push a particular one onto them. Be supportive, stay calm, and let your loved one feel in control of the situation.
Be Available for Another Conversation
It is unlikely the situation will be resolved after one conversation, so be patient, and be available for your friend or loved one.