We had been “dating” for about six months, hadn't officially moved in together, and I was at his place making coffee. As I was taking the top off the carafe, a little tab that was meant to keep it in place came off. He became enraged that I had not done it properly, and pushed me against the counter with his hands around my neck. I kept hoping his roommate would hear the ruckus and come out, but that didn't happen. No one to rescue me from the assault that had me confused and in shock.
Later, of course, there were apologies and promises to never do it again. And, I believed him. I continued to believe him for another 13 years. Despite escalating violence, and emotional and sexual abuse, I continued to believe him. I kept expecting that any minute he would see the error of his ways. I just knew that if I loved him well enough his heart would melt and we would live happily ever after.
My story is not unique. I was not stupid, or clingy, or desperate. My friends tell me I am kind, loving, generous, and smart. I never thought I would get into, let alone stay in, an abusive relationship. But, I did.
It took one person saying to me at the right time "You know, you don't have to stay" for me to see the light and finally leave him. It was not easy and it was not fun, but by God's grace and the help of family, I left.
If you have people in your life that you suspect are in abusive relationships (and chances are you do), here are some ways for you to be there for them – even if they are not ready or able to leave yet.
- Choose a time and place to talk where you are not likely to be interrupted or overheard.
- Be honest about your concerns. Let your friend know what you have heard and observed and that you are concerned for their safety – emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
- Don’t anticipate their reaction. Some people will be too ashamed to admit there is a problem; others will be relieved at the opportunity to finally break the silence about what has been going on. Be patient.
- Gather resources – local and national. These will help your friend with making a plan for the next step - hopefully a plan of escape.
- Be sure you account for security- theirs and yours.
- Be gentle and supportive. Shaming, arguing, and haranguing your friend will only deepen the shame they feel. Let them know you are there to support them.
For more information, check out the following national resources. NOTE: Your friend should be careful about using their own computer, in case their abuser checks browsing history, etc. Better to have them use a public computer such as in a library, or another place where their abuser does not have access.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1-800-799-7233 (1-800-799-SAFE) TTY: 1-800-787-3224
You do a good thing when you have a difficult discussion with a friend in this situation. You may very well save their
– Psalm 24:18