What to Do if a Friend is Being Abused

The knowledge or assumption that a loved one is being abused is terrifying. Worse still, if you notice the marks of violence, withdrawal, and mental breakdown without the victim saying a word. They may cover the bruises or come up with excuses over their existence. They may even get defensive if you keep probing on the matter.

As an adult, you are primed to take control of your affairs. When things fall apart, the immediate action is not to look for help outside. Society can be cruel and judgmental. From this supposition, it is understandable that your friend may be having a hard time speaking out. On the other hand, the abuser may be blackmailing the victim into silence.

You may want to respect their privacy, but you also fear for their safety. In reality, the victim must make their own decision to leave the abuser. You cannot coerce them into leaving. Once the signs of abuse are apparent, whether mentally or physically, there are practical ways to provide support.

Have a Conversation

The first step to ascertaining your observations is having a one-on-one conversation with your friend. Talking is therapeutic. It is not, simply, an affirmation of what you have been suspecting. It is the first step toward healing. Let your friend unload their burden.

The tone of these engagements needs to be positive. Compliment the individual, affirm their personality and character. Do not delve straight into the situation. Positivity enhances security, trust and dispels tension.

Let your friend feel comfortable enough to open up about their situation. If possible, choose a private place to have this conversation. You could invite her to your home or anywhere where you can privately converse without any distraction. Calmly start the conversation. Instead of panic and alarm, be comforting and assuring. Empathize with your friend. 

Keep Your Interaction Friendly and Less Dogmatic

Engage with your friend to listen and not to chime in with your opinions. Do not be quick to pass blame or give solutions. Your interaction should promot empowerment and encouragement. Remember, your friend needs to realize that they need help. A little leniency and mercy go a long way.

It is best to let your friend determine their course. Your role is to provide support and guidance. Your friend may need to make drastic changes to find peace and healing. They may not have the mental and physical strength to go through with the resolution. Exercise patience and be very understanding. What seems like a snap of a finger to you is immensely difficult for your friend.

Capitalize on Assurance

Once your friend lets you know their situation, reassure their strengths. They have been strong enough to handle abuse. According to research, when someone is exposed to vicious cycles of violence, they become helpless. The social cycle theory states that this is a learned behavior. The victim relives the experience as if it were happening even when it is not happening. Therefore, re-affirming their strengths and resilience is crucial.

Most victims of abuse blame themselves. A study on the impact of abuse on survivors showed that self-blame impedes recovery. It leads the victim toward self-destructive patterns like alcohol abuse to cope. The research also showed a correlation between social reaction and self-blame.

As a support system, do not join the bandwagon of condemnation and pointing out faults. Be understanding. Whatever the victim did or did not do does not warrant abuse.

Similarly, the stress of living with the abuser interferes with a person’s ability to regulate emotions. Abuse is nerve-wracking. Your friend is living in their worst nightmare in a perpetual state of anxiety. Dispel these fears from their mind and let them know that they are capable of taking back control.

Call the Abuse by Name

Instead of generalizing your friend’s situation as abuse, call it for what it is. For instance, if the abuser is controlling, ask your friend about the impact of the control. If you noticed that they do not socialize without their abuser’s permission, ask what the restraint evokes. Such questions encourage self-reflection, which leads to self-actualization and developing rational ways of dealing with the problem.

Identifying the abuse also helps your friend notice their unhealthy coping behaviors. Their coping mechanism is doing more harm than good because their interpretation of the abuse is skewed. Deduce the problem with gentleness. Let the friend pinpoint the problematic areas and come up with solutions. It may not be wise to put words in her mouth or steer the conversation to where you think is best.

Provide Support Beyond Communication

Let your friend know your shoulders are available to lean on. Have their back throughout their healing journey. You are the pillar of strength when the walls cave in and the voice of reason amidst irrationality.

Support should not be limited to talks and occasional check-ups. You can become their accountability partner or an exercise buddy - exercise is an excellent stress reliever. Help your friend pick up the pieces when they sever ties with the abuser. Cushion the fall in moments of indecision. Most importantly, point your friend towards hope regardless of the outcome of events.

Offer to Call Professional Help

You can also suggest an expert for therapeutic intervention. For instance, a counseling psychologist has the resources and expertise to help your friend during and after the abuse. Your support and that of the therapist will help your friend emerge victoriously from the despair of abuse.

You can also point your friend to other advocacy groups or shelters depending on the nature of abuse. Your friend could need a lawyer or other pertinent professional to help in their situation. Do not handle the situation alone if it is beyond your capacity. Get your friend’s approval before involving other parties. Do not betray their trust and confidence in you by taking matters into your own hands. 

Going through abuse is a complex process. The healing journey is not a one-size-fits-all process. For instance, it may take several one-on-one meetings for your friend to open up about their condition. They may resist help or cower in the midst of the battle. Your involvement must be consistent and intentional. Understand the burden of change lies with your friend and choose to offer unwavering support.

New Dimensions Can Help!

If you or someone you know is in crisis because of mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help.  New Dimensions provides Online Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs for Adults and Adolescents.  Our online treatment programs are available to anyone who resides within the State of Texas, including Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Beaumont, San Antonio, Lubbock, Odessa, Midland, El Paso, Laredo, or College Station.  We also have locations for in-person treatment in Katy, The Woodlands, and Houston.  To learn more about our programs, visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com or contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

08 February, 2021

Latest articles

Share on