Controlling/Abusive Relationships Part II: How to Help Someone You Know by Jamie Edwards, LCSW

With October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I thought a good follow-up to my last blog – “The Basis for Abusive Relationships: Control” – would be to write about what you can do if you know someone in such a relationship. Here are seven tips that can help.

  1. Open up the conversation.

It is threatening to an abuser’s power and control for someone to be aware of the abuse, so victims/survivors may not come to you first to share what is happening in the relationship.  In fact, they most likely will be hiding the control/abuse; that means you approaching the subject first.  Focus on your concern for their safety, how much you care about them, and give specific examples of why you are concerned.

  1. Listen openly and nonjudgmentally.  If they open up about the abuse, BELIEVE it.

Do not underestimate the power of simply being there and listening to the story.  You may be the first person they told.  If you are, it is even more important to believe what is said.  Often the response survivors/victims get from the first person they tell will shape what they will do moving forward.  If they are not believed, that may be the last person they tell.  In addition, leave out blame, such as, “did you do something to provoke him/her?” or questions around why they would stay with someone who is controlling/abusive.  This will be a quick way to shut the conversation down.

  1. Go over options and support available.

Especially if someone is ready to leave a relationship, developing a safety plan is essential:

The most dangerous time for a victim/survivor is when s/he leaves or soon after; this is because the abuser is losing all the control, and sometimes will do anything to get it back.  It is great to be a support, but ideally a victim/survivor should have additional support from a local domestic violence agency.  In Lake County, that agency is A Safe Place:

In addition, therapy is an important part of any trauma survivor’s recovery; here at Gurnee Counseling Center, we have therapists who specialize in helping trauma survivors to heal.

  1. Respect their choices.

Regardless of what you think, it is the victim’s/survivor’s life and relationship.  S/he has the choices to make.  There may be very good reasons for staying in the relationship.  On average, it takes a victim/survivor 7 times to fully leave a controlling/abusive relationship.  Here is why:

  1. Do not try to talk, confront, or reason with the abuser on your own.

Doing so is threatening the abuser’s power and control in the relationship, and it is unpredictable what will happen.  Even if you know the person, you do not know him/her in the privacy of that relationship.

  1. Be patient and stay in touch, no matter what.

As hard as it may be to stay in his/her life, you may be the victim’s/survivor’s only lifeline.  Let him/her know you will always be there and help prevent any further isolation.  You can still make it apparent that you do not support the relationship, specifically how the abuser is treating the person you care about.

In healing there is hope. If you or someone you know may be in abusive relationship, please feel free to call me, Jamie Edwards, at (847) 336-5621 ext.128.