Helping Someone in an Abusive or Controlling Relationship: Six Ways To Help
Today, I did an interview for The Willie Moore Jr. Show discussing the unfortunate death of Gabby Petito who police strongly believe was a victim of domestic violence. My heart and prayers go out to her family and friends sincerely.
In the radio interview, I discussed six ways to help someone who is a victim of partner abuse inspired completely by an article written for Psychology Today by the brilliant psychologist, Dr. Lisa Aronson Fontes. I highlight the strategies below but encourage you to read the article in entirety to educate yourselves and loved ones who may be in abusive and controlling relationships currently. God Bless.
Six Ways To Help Someone Currently in An Abusive or Toxic Relationship
1. Counteract Isolation. One of the many tools that abusers use is to isolate their partner from their support system to make them totally dependent on him/her. How many of you have noticed that since she has been dating him, she no longer goes out with you anymore? It could be a sign of control in a toxic relationship.
To counteract this, invite your friend out and try not to take "No" has the final answer. If it was easy for her to leave or have her own mind, she wouldn't be a victim so give her grace if she is resistant at first. You can even pop up with the crew and invite her to a surprise lunch to get her out of the house. You can even encourage her to get a job, hobby, gym membership, etc. just to give her a sense of life outside of the toxic setting she is in. Whatever you do, don't give up because then she is really all alone.
2. Counteract Gaslighting.
You can counteract gaslighting by affirming your friend’s perspective. Her spouse is actually trying to make her seem crazy so affirm her sanity and recall of events. It helps maintain a healthy perspective when she has someone to lean on who will be honest and validate her reality. If you can, educate her (with materials, articles, books and/or videos) so she can learn to recognize the signs herself versus arguing with you. Sometimes we learn best when we are alone because it is harder to be defensive with a book lol.
3. Counteract Degradation.
At all cost, avoid degrading your loved one for not seeing how toxic her relationship is. Remember, he is likely already telling her that she is stupid, makes bad decisions and unfit, etc. So, build her self-confidence up as much as possible by reminding her of strengths, accomplishments, and ability to make sound decisions. Even if she is losing her independence and self-confidence inside of the relationship, continue to affirm her and her ability to find healthy love. Remember, she needs every ounce of positive energy, affirmation and validation she can get.
You can counteract economic control by asking what your friend needs. There is nothing wrong with setting up an account she can get her hands on if in need but make sure you have yourself as a mandatory co-signature to prevent the partner from getting the money if she tells or he gains access to it, somehow. You can send food, cash app, recurrent deliveries of things you know she needs or wants, and even apply for jobs with or for her to give her the financial means to leave when she is emotionally able and willing to do so.
We all know that abusers can be charming, cunning and manipulative with their convenient use of love and romance when the relationship of marriage appears in trouble. He is well aware of how thirsty his partner is for affection, validation, romance and care. He needs her to be able to say, "He's not always mean...he can be quite loving at times." However, it's planned, calculated and based on manipulation versus sincerity. Help her to see the pattern and secondary gain for her abuser's nice streaks in advance so she can recognize it herself and resist the fakeness of it.
6. Counteract Physical Violence.
Ask the tough questions...
"Does he threaten you?"
"How often does he hit you?"
"Are you scared?"
"Are you being controlled?
"Is that a bruise on your face you're trying to hide with make up?"
Why? They need to know that you see the abuse versus ignoring it. They need you to be the voice of reason that physical violence is never okay or justified. He is likely blaming what happened on her actions to continue to justify physical abuse. Be prepared that she still may not want to leave but still call a spade and spade.
Next, tell her how to escape and help her plan a safe exit and absolutely tell her not to announce that she is leaving. Abusers become enraged by abandonment and can become violent if they even think they are being left. Make sure the coast is clear when you help her to leave and have the entire village plan for her safety and counseling upon finally leaving.
I pray that this helps you! The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Calling could very well save your friends or your own life. You need support and help to get away safely. It is only a call away. God Bless!