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We often hear that other people’s relationships do not concern us, that this is a personal and closed space. Therefore, we do not understand how to act when we see that something alarming or even terrible is happening in a couple. Sometimes it seems to us that it is not worth interfering in any case.
However, relationship expert and director of the One Love Foundation Katie Hood believes that we can improve this skill: “Relationships with others are exactly the area of \u200b\u200blife in which everyone has the most experience. We were just never instructed how to operate it.”
Working for an organization that helps victims of violence, Katie Hood tries to explain the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships. “When you look at a couple from the outside, things can be clear and obvious to you that are not visible from the inside. If someone hits you on your first date, it will be your last. But abuse creeps up gradually and imperceptibly. It begins with adoration, flamboyant courtship and behavior that we used to think of as true love. Therefore, we don’t even think that something could go wrong,” the expert explains.
According to statistics, at least one in four women in the world at least once in her life encountered with domestic violence. Men also become victims. In the USA, for example, every third was subjected to abused in a relationship at least once. And in the UK, about one in ten experienced any form of abuse. Some international studies even showthat men and women are almost equally affected by this problem.
How to Know if Your Friend is in an Abusive Relationship
He or she isolates from you or favorite activities
According to Katie Hood, this is the first sign that something is wrong and is often overlooked. It seems normal for us to distance ourselves from others and our hobbies during the development of relationships. When one of our friends has a candy-bouquet period, we expect in advance that they will disappear from the radar. We even joke about this topic: “Now that the relationship has appeared, everything else is forgotten and abandoned.”
Experts note that when this period drags on or the behavior of a friend changes dramatically, you should be wary. “If someone you’ve been hanging out with all the time doesn’t get in touch and comes up with excuses, or someone who loved going to the dance with you on Wednesdays suddenly stopped showing up to class, that’s a bad sign,” he explains. Karen Mason, co-founder and director of the SOAR project, which works with victims of violence.
He or she develops unexplained injuries
Of course, many abusers are well aware of what injuries are invisible or leave no trace at all. However, if your boyfriend or girlfriend has been “accidentally” hitting or falling more often lately, be careful.
“Incomprehensible scars or bruises and strange stories of their appearance, in which ends meet, as well as unwillingness to discuss this topic, can be“ talking ”signals,” notes Karen Mason.
He or she faces emotional and financial abuse
Sometimes this happens right before our eyes – the offender humiliates or controls the person we care about in the presence of family and loved ones. In such cases, our friends often try to smooth things over with apologies or claims that they themselves provoked a partner.
In addition, they may perceive such behavior as their area of responsibility, and sometimes even say phrases like “I can handle it.” According to experts, here the victim turns on the “savior” mode. “This is the mindset of a person who tends to help and support others. That’s how abusers lure them in: “I need you, I love you.” This is one of the many ways to tie empathic, compassionate “saviors” even more strongly to you, ”says Katie Hood.
No matter how your friend or girlfriend reacts, try to notice behavior that is unusual for him or her before or that alerts you to something else. Especially if all this manifested itself just after the start of the relationship.
Also, take seriously the jokes that if a friend or girlfriend does not do something, the partner will “be unhappy.” Or stories about having to ask permission from him to spend your money.
Another important detail is that not only quiet, docile and calm people risk being in abusive relationships. Karen Mason once shared her experience of violence with a colleague: “He replied:“ How is this even possible? You are one of the coolest women I know.” It’s like they’re mutually exclusive.”
How to help a friend or girlfriend in an abusive relationship
If you notice one or more of the signs and want to talk about it, try to make an appointment. This should be a private one-on-one conversation, especially if you’re worried that your partner might have access to social media and your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s phone. Say, for example, that you need to meet and discuss a common work project, or come up with another joint activity that will not arouse suspicion.
Next, it is very important to start the conversation on the right note. You must come to the meeting ready to listen and accept everything you hear without judgment. Your task is not to control a friend or girlfriend even more, but on the contrary, to return control over his or her life to him or her.
“You should not like someone else’s choice, but you should respect it. Let a loved one know that you care and you want to be sure that he is in order, ”advises Karen Mason.
Experts suggest gently starting a conversation, for example, with the following words: “First, it is important for me to make sure that you know how much I love you and that I want only the best for you. Second, I will always be by your side no matter what happens.” Then you can say that you were uncomfortable when you noticed some inappropriate behavior towards a friend or girlfriend from a partner.
Focus on the situation itself, not on the person’s criticism, otherwise there is a risk that he or she will go into defensive mode. You can mention what changes you have noticed, for example, that a friend or girlfriend no longer appears in a common company. Karen Mason suggests asking the following questions:
- Is something happening to you? I feel like something has changed.
- Do you feel safe? Maybe you want to tell me something?
The most important thing is to listen and ask open-ended questions. You must show healthy curiosity, not judgment, and be ready for anything. A friend or girlfriend may consider your experiences insignificant or, conversely, react very violently. Take responsibility for yourself and respect the feelings of a loved one, including his affection for a partner.
“None of us wants to believe that we love a person capable of violence. Abuse is cyclical, which means that the abuser does not behave like a monster all the time. Your boyfriend or girlfriend may feel like a flower who rarely sees the sun. When it finally comes out from behind the clouds, it seems that everything is amazing, ”says Karen Mason.
“There is love in an abusive relationship,” adds Katie Hood. But this is sick love.
After the first conversation, your task is to continue to openly communicate with a friend or girlfriend. You should be the person you can always turn to if the situation gets dangerous. However, it may be a long time before someone close to you admits they are in an abusive relationship. You have given him a new perspective on the situation, but now he must overcome shame and social prejudice in order to move on.
“The average person makes seven attempts to leave an abusive relationship. Therefore, if you get angry that a friend or girlfriend does not leave immediately, and stop communicating, you give even more power and control to the abuser, ”emphasizes Katie Hood.
You need to come to terms with the idea that your friend or girlfriend may end the relationship for a very long time or not end it at all. He or she will tell you for a long time about his misfortune, and then turn everything in the other direction. Such inconstancy can be annoying, but it is just a product of a destructive relationship.
“It takes time to end a relationship. Perhaps a friend or girlfriend is already taking small steps towards resistance that you simply don’t know about, ”adds Karen Mason.
If the situation becomes dangerous and you are worried about the life of a friend or girlfriend, it’s time to take active measures. Find another person close to him or her with whom you can discuss everything. Make a protection plan – write down, for example, the numbers of crisis centers or find a place to stay if he or she has to leave the house in a hurry. In the end, a person’s life is much more important than your relationship with him, therefore, if circumstances take a terrible turn, it is necessary to act even against someone else’s will.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself too. It is very difficult to observe from the outside how hard and bad it is for your dear person. Make sure you have someone to talk to, too, without naming names or revealing your friend’s personal information.