As someone whose been in abusive relationships, I absolutely can not stand the following train of thoughts:
- “If you’re in an abusive relationship, just leave”
- “You don’t have control of your life”
and other such nonsense…….
REAL LIFE DOESN’T WORK LIKE THAT.
Real life doesn’t allow people to “just leave” relationships. Telling people they don’t have control, doesn’t motivate them to suddenly get control. Hell, a therapist telling their client “you’re in an abusive relationship” might make them aware of the fact….but that doesn’t mean they’ll actually change anything about it.
Abusive relationships change the victims. They alter their psyche. They make their bravery falter. They warp their views of dependence.
If you have never been in an abusive relationship, YOU CAN NOT PASS JUDGEMENT ON PEOPLE WHO HAVE GONE THROUGH ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS! Observing from the outside, is NOT the same as actually living it. Thinking “I dealt with a bad co worker all the time” (or something similar) IS NOT THE SAME as being with an abusive person who, in their heart, still absolutely adore (yes, this is stockholm syndrome, which needs SERIOUS professional intervention).
Not all abusive relationships are the same, either. Yes, two people experience emotional abuse, but they can be two different types of emotional abuse. One abuser can make their victim feel shame and guilt, while another will gaslight them and make them question every single thing about themselves, driving their anxiety through the roof. The end goals are the same, make their victim feel shitty, and make them feel like they can’t ever leave.
So what can you do, to actually help, as an observer?
Give them hotline numbers for domestic abuse, and other forms of abuse (and crisis hotlines). Offer to go to the psychologist/counselor with them. Tell them, that you are there to talk to them whenever they need it (but be mindful of how much you can handle on your own).
The key, is to offer your help, but not to the point where you victim blame (make them feel guilty about themselves, say demeaning things to them, etc.), and make resources available to them. You can NOT make them do anything, as frustrating as it might be.
WHAT IF THEY SEND ME A SCARY TEXT? (like they’re fearful for their life, they just got hit, etc.)
Call the police. They might be angry at you temporarily, but it will save their life.If there’s a minor involved (or in the home), police are double-serious about domestic violence issues.