Sticks & Stones: How Do I Know If My Friend Is In An Abusive Relationship?

— Trigger Warning —

The other day, I read an article by Jane Gilmore, discussing that there was no national outrage or outcry, and little had been said in the media, about the fact that just the other week in Australia, six women were murdered in five days.

Yes.

Six women were murdered in five days.

As a result, I am working toward and planning to dedicate several Raising Awareness slots to the women who have sadly lost their lives in 2018, in Australia, to domestic violence. Hopefully, if we are reminded each week of their faces, their names, their lives, we will get over our compassion fatigue and start to give a damn about violence against women.

I would also like to take this opportunity to note that during this time, White Ribbon has decided that it wants to be “agnostic” when it comes to women seeking safe and legal abortions. They recently, and very publicly, admitted that they were putting money before the lives of women. White Ribbon has always been problematic as fuck, but I want you to blow this shit open. As White Ribbon and Scott Morrison and our Australian government tries to backtrack for openly fucking women over in 2018 and publicly admitting money meant more to them than women’s health, I urge you to crucify and bury both. I urge you to show Australia, our PM, and our government that WOMEN’S RIGHTS FUCKING MATTER AND WE’RE SICK OF WOMEN DYING AND OUR GOVERNMENT DOING JACKSHIT. 

As always, there will be hotline information at the bottom of the page, and you are always welcome to contact me on Facebook or DM me on my Instagram @thingscarlaloves if you need to talk to someone.

If you are aware that someone might be in danger, I implore you to please speak up. You may be wrong, but you may also save someone’s life.

This is actually an incredibly difficult and complex question, because we often see abuse as physical, when in reality, it can be financial, emotional, psychological, sexual – or all of these combined.

For example, imagine a very, very rich couple. Not famous, but far more than comfortable, with money most of us couldn’t even imagine. You might assume that because the couple is rich, that a person might be able to leave at any time. However, sometimes people control the “purse strings” and all the bank accounts, only giving their spouse an “allowance” that is carefully monitored. While you might think this is a “deal” struck between the couple (and it very well could be), it could also be a form of abuse. And before you say, ‘That’s no excuse, leave’ … well, where?

Seriously. If you don’t have money, where?

Do you want to admit to your friends and family that you, personally, have no money?

Do you even have friends and family that would understand and support you?

Will anyone let you in a shelter if you look like you’ve just walked off the cover of Marie Claire?

Would anyone even consider you a victim? (You are, if you are reading this and you’re not sure.)

All of these things go through a domestic violence victim’s mind all the time. And more.

Throw kids in the mix?

Then you have a person who has to decide between taking their children to live somewhere else – potentially in a shelter for weeks on end if there is no other support network which could be entirely possible, especially if the people around you don’t deem the behaviour as abusive because you’re not being beaten to death – without any knowledge of the foreseeable future.

So firstly, if you’re thinking that your friend is potentially in an abusive relationship, please do understand this: Abuse is more complex than you think, and certain abuses at recognised the same way in society (after all, if a woman getting the shit beat out of her ‘deserves it’, can you imagine the scrutiny of women who aren’t being beaten to death?), which means that while you not might understand the dynamics, it’s more than likely the victim doesn’t know either.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to what you do.

Obviously, this is general advice, but you’re going to need a lot of patience and empathy. No matter you, or anyone else says, it is not easy to leave an abusive partner, and women are far more likely to be murdered if they are considering and/or do leave their partner. That means that every time someone wants to leave, they are literally risking their life. Imagine living with that terror every single minute of every single day.

Unless you have witnessed a specific abusive event, I would caution against straight out saying, ‘I think you’re in an abusive relationship’ because even if the victim suspects they might be, that’s a bell you can’t unring. Being too aggressive might scare your friend/loved one, especially as this is probably what they are used to. You need to be the opposite. If their partner really is abusive, they will have heard a lot of things to help isolate them. They may have even heard bad things about you, and if their partner has deemed you as a threat, they may not be sure if they can trust you. You need to show them that they can.

It will be incredibly difficult and frustrating, as this will likely not happen quickly or overnight, and if you’re right, of course you’re going to want your loved one to get the fuck out of there.

But, if the person doesn’t believe they’re in an abusive relationship, and you come in there swinging, saying ‘The person you love is abusing you’, of course they’re going to immediately deny it.

Try and ask deliberately open-ended questions, so that you can gauge from their answers any red flags (for example, if you hear statements like ‘He gets angry sometimes’, that could be perfectly legitimate, or it could be someone’s way of not realising ‘he gets angry sometimes’ is ‘he’s being emotionally abusive’). If your loved one’s answers help reinforce your suspicions, I’d try and make sure I was a person they knew they could trust. I’d do everything in my power to remain calm and rational, because you become a threat the more you become stubborn and aggressive. Everything that you do to “shock your friend out of it” can be used against you by the abuser in ways you can’t even imagine. (Remember, they are master manipulators.)

That means you need to be everything you can possibly be. And if you can’t give it, that’s okay, but if you’re serious about saving your friend, I’m not going to lie – it’s rarely an easy path, and it’s very easy to want to give up. I won’t judge or shame you if you do – after all, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t force it to drink and you do need to take care of you – but I just want you to know that it isn’t easy, and if you can do it, you’re doing an amazing thing for someone.

If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, you might want to start opening up about that. It can be a great way for you to covertly compare your relationship to your loved one’s without directly stating it, giving the person an opportunity to reflect on their own relationship (alternatively, if you’ve never been in a violent relationship, you could link it to an article you’ve read or a celebrity that’s come out or something else).

Not only will this give the potential victim an opportunity to reflect, but it will also help deepen the foundations of your relationship with them. Simply put: By confiding in them, you are helping to be build up trust. That means that they are more likely to open up to you when they are ready.

I personally believe this question is incredibly complex, and to do it justice, I will break it up into segments. But for now, I’d work on trying to get as much of an understanding of the relationship as you possibly can (after all, just because you think someone is being abused doesn’t mean they are – it could be part of some kinky sex thing or something actually explainable) and making sure you’re someone your friend can trust and rely on in the hopes that they will confide in you. I will write something different for helping someone to leave an abusive relationship.

But hey, men are the real victims here.

In Emergencies: 000

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14

1800 RESPECT

MensLine Australia: 1300 78 99 78

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— Sources —

Background

Bachelor of Education: English and History

Diploma in Criminology and Profiling

Diploma in Forensic Science

Background in law and psychology

Teacher 7+ years

Background in special needs, learning support – other specific teaching fields that required hands-on development.

NB: This is a declaration of the background of my personal knowledge, collected over the years via a professional form of education and development. Some of these take the form of actual degrees and others come in the form of necessary professional development. When doing your own, you should always try and verify the person’s credibility. My credibility, nor anyone else’s, is not with their education. Everyone has biases and no one is infallible. I am deliberately including some of my background education to highlight this, because you should be questioning information you are receiving.

External Sources

Larissa Beilby

Alleged Murderer

Accessories to Larissa’s murder

Jane Gilmore

National Emergency

Various people over from Hunt A Killer

Violence Against Women

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