Friday, May 23, 2014

How to Help

What TO Do:
  • Listen to what she has to say.
  • Believe what she tells you. It will have taken a lot for her to talk to you. People are much more likely to cover up or downplay the abuse, rather than to make it up or exaggerate. You might find it hard to imagine someone you know could behave abusively. But the person who is abusive will probably show you a very different side to the side the victim sees.
  • Take the abuse seriously. Abuse can be damaging both physically and emotionally. Don’t underestimate the danger she may be in.
  • Help her to recognise the abuse and understand how it may be affecting her or her children.
  • Tell her you think she has been brave in being able to talk about the abuse, and in being able to keep going despite the abuse.
  • Help to build her confidence in herself.
  • Help her to understand that the abuse is not her fault and that no-one deserves to be abused, no matter what they do. Let her know you think that the way her partner is treating her is wrong. For example, ‘No-one, not even your husband, has the right to mistreat you’
  • Help her to protect herself. You could say ‘I’m afraid of what he could do to you or the children‘ or ‘I’m worried that it will get worse’ . Talk to her about how she thinks she could protect herself. See the section ‘Helping to increase her safety’ (see below).
  • Help her to think about what she can do and see how you can help her to achieve it.
  • Offer practical assistance like minding the children for a while, cooking a meal for her, offering a safe place to stay, transport or to accompany her to court, etc.
  • Respect her right to make her own decisions, even if you don’t agree with them. Respect her cultural or religious values and beliefs.
  • Maintain some level of regular contact with her. Having an opportunity to talk regularly to a supportive friend or relative can be very important.
  • Find out about Intervention Orders (Victorian name for a court protection order – in NSW these are called ‘Apprehended Violence Orders’, and in other states they are ‘Protection’, ‘Restraining’ or ‘Domestic Violence’ Orders) and other legal options available and pass this information on to her if she wants it.
  • Tell her about the services available. Remind her that if she calls a service, she can just get support and information, they won’t pressure her to leave if she doesn’t want to.
  • Keep supporting her after she has left the relationship. The period of separation could be a dangerous time for her, as the abuse may increase. She may need practical support and encouragement to help her establish a new life and recover from the abuse. She could also seek counselling or join a support group.
What NOT to Do:
  • Don’t blame her for the abuse or ask questions like ‘what did you do for him to treat you like that?’ or ‘why do you put up with it?’, or ‘how can you still be in love with him?’ These questions suggest that it is somehow her fault.
  • Don’t keep trying to work out the ‘reasons’ for the abuse. Concentrate on supporting the person who is being abused.
  • Don’t be critical if she says she still loves her partner, or if she leaves but then returns to the relationship. Leaving an abusive partner takes time, and your support is really important.
  • Don’t criticise her partner. Criticise the abusive behaviour and let her know that no-one has the right to abuse her (for example, say ‘your partner shouldn’t treat you like that’). Criticism of her partner is only likely to make her want to defend him or her.
  • Don’t give advice, or tell her what you would do. This will only reduce her confidence to make her own decisions. Listen to her and give her information, not advice.
  • Don’t pressure her to leave or try to make decisions on her behalf. Focus on listening and supporting her to make her own decisions. She knows her own situation best.
Maybe this will guide those of you who may want to provide some support and are unsure what to say or do. Obviously not everything applies to me, but I cut and paste the lists cause you never know when it might help.

And I will be absolutely clear that you don't have to 'take sides' to provide support but I will prefer silence on the matter over disagreement. I've burnt all the bridges that need burning, I hope. I didn't intend things to be as divisive as they have been but at the same time I'm still coping with a lot of really scary, complex stuff going on in my head, and I have been panicky, anxious, terrified no one believes me, confused if I should believe myself, angry at me, at him, at everyone, at no one, okay one minute and utterly depressed the next, up down round and round and round. Yes, it's a mess up there and my tolerance levels for anyone who thinks his behaviour has been remotely okay or the picture he's painted of me is slightly true is non-existent. All the rationalisations, excuses, benefit of the doubt, seeing his side of things, etc. I've already done over and over again. To get him OUT of my brain, I need to cut out anything and everything to do with him that puts me back into a terrible mindset, people included.

You don't have to hate him, think he's a monster, or stop being his friend. I would never ask that of anyone. But there is an extent where I DO need it to be me or him of those in my life, because I want him OUT.

Yes, I'm still processing, and yesterday's mindfuck hasn't helped. But I hope to put it to rest as soon as I'm able. I am on my timetable and doing what I need for me. I will definitely get there, and I appreciate that a lot of you only want what is best for me.. trust me, I'm super grateful... but it will be in my own time. <3

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