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Worried about a friend

(16 Posts)
Spottyblancmange Wed 05-Sep-12 10:06:24

I hope this is the right place to post this, if not please tell me so I can report it.

I have a colleague who is also my friend, and I'm pretty sure she's in a violent relationship. I know her DP is very controlling, she's often had to cancel plans because he's said no, or he's changed his mind. She seems to have to okay every little thing with him too.

Recently, I've noticed bruises on her. A lot on her arms, and now she has a black eye. She hasn't mentioned it, and I don't know if I should ask or whether that would make her feel uncomfortable. When I've asked, and other people have asked about the ones on her arms before she's given us excuses that would be fine, except she contradicted herself, which makes me think she was covering up.

I know there isn't much I can do, it will have to come from her when she's ready, but I was really just looking for some advice about handling it in the mean time. Is it generally best to completely ignore the bruises or should I acknowledge them without asking where they are from? I want to be supportive but I feel I'm out of my depth a little and I don't want to do the wrong thing.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 05-Sep-12 10:13:40

All you can do is talk to your friend and express your concern for her wellbeing. Victims of violent partners are often very scared but can also be very confused. You've only to read a few threads on here to see how easy aggressive behaviour can be rationalised... 'he's stressed', 'he's a great dad and I don't want to split the family up', 'he's lovely most of the time', 'it's my fault he's like this, I wind him up'. All kinds of things can be keeping your friend trapped.

So don't ignore the injuries but play it carefully or you risk her avoiding you and isolating herself. Keep asking how she is & say you're worried about her if she's covered in bruises again. One day she'll have the courage to ask for help.

HotDAMNlifeisgood Wed 05-Sep-12 10:14:41

You sound like a very good friend, and also very wise re: it will have to come from her when she's ready.

Do ask her open questions about her relationship, or just her general emotional state, and see if that leads to anything ("What did H say about x? How does that make you feel?" - any questions that start with "who, what, where, when, why", essentially. They invite disclosure.)

She is undoubtedly in denial and normalising his behaviour, and IME it is the statements that came out of my own mouth, not anything that anyone else could have told me, that made me come to terms with the fact that I was in a violent and abusive relationship. So do what you can to get her talking, and just listen and invite more information from her.

Empathising also helped: "Oh, poor you; that sounds dreadful" when I described behaviour that I had normalised.

Then obviously be there with offers/pointers of practical support if she gets to the stage where that is what she is seeking.

cestlavielife Wed 05-Sep-12 10:45:41

can you let her know your door is open any time day or night? is that practical for you if she were to turn up?

Spottyblancmange Wed 05-Sep-12 12:59:22

Thanks for the replies, I really appreciate them because I'm not always the best at knowing what to say.

I will keep asking how she is, and I was thinking it would be best to ask her some open questions when she tells me something he's done, so she's the one who brought him into the conversation rather than me.

I am worried that she seems to be quite isolated already, she's not British so I know she doesn't have family nearby, and she's never mentioned any other friends or doing anything outside work that doesn't involve her DP. So I'm very conscious that I don't want to push her into avoiding me.

I can let her know that she can call me any time, and she can come round or we can meet somewhere if she'd prefer that, and I absolutely will do.

Thanks again for all your advice Cogito, HotDamn and cestlavielife.

dondon33 Wed 05-Sep-12 16:24:08

You sound like a lovely friend OP
Just let her know that you're there for her and meeting her in an outside environment, away from work, sounds great. I would be reluctant to speak about personal stuff at work with others around.
Could you let her know about MN, if she doesn't already. She could come here and read through the posts that others, in similar situations, have posted. She need not post if she doesn't want to. If she does then tell her to delete the history on computer so her H doesn't find out.

something2say Wed 05-Sep-12 18:04:55

I would do a bit more than this. I might phone round and find out who provides your local DV services and get their number for her. Have a look on DV websites and print her off some info and give it in an envelope for privacy. Depending on where she is from, she might be entitled to public funds, so tell her she may be able to get help to escape If she brings up DV, I would say to her that it is very common and she is entitled to escape, and if she wants it, there is probably help available to her. I might also raise it with my line manager, hoping they raise it with hers, as many employers have a DV policy these days. If there are multiple physical assaults, I would say the risk is quite high. x

Spottyblancmange Wed 05-Sep-12 19:14:32

Dondon, that's actually a really good idea to tell her about MN, I can definitely mention it as something I'm far too addicted to. I did think that about work, nobody wants to discuss stuff in the office. I've been trying to invite her to come out for lunch, her DP tends to dismiss anything after work/at the weekend, so lunch is better, she doesn't have to tell him about that.

Something2say, I did have a huge google for DV related stuff before, but I'm a little hesitant about just giving it to her at the moment. If she's not ready to recognise it for what it is, I worry that it might come across as pushy, or she might just deny it altogether and be offended. If she hints about it, or says something that makes me feel she's ready then I'll give it to her. I might see if there is any way I can slip a leaflet or something into her postbox without her necessarily knowing it's from me, then even if she dismisses it, she hopefully won't dismiss me.

mrkidd85 Wed 05-Sep-12 20:48:23

Tell her family for one. I don't believe in all this standing back and letting her realise for herself - it can end up really nasty.

dondon33 Thu 06-Sep-12 08:22:47

Lunch sounds a better idea Spotty, if her DP doesn't "allow" angry her to socialise after work.
I know you said she's not British, is he? It's not important really just I was wondering if he knew what help is available to victims of DV here and also what perpetrator's of DV can expect.
Fantastic that you have all this info ready too but I think you need to gently "push" this quicker. Explain to her that you're worried, you'll still be her friend no matter what but that help is available and she doesn't have to put up and shut up with what going on at home.....every extra day she's with him, she's at risk.

Mrkidd -although telling her family would be great in theory, it can sadly make the situation worse, especially if they confront him. He'll turn that anger to GF first chance he gets.
I had the option of being honest with my own family but knew what would happen to me if I involved them, my exh showed me once when he found out that I'd confided in a friend (which didn't take much confiding, sat talking to her with a black eye, burst mouth and fractured ribs) Of course family/friends can be supportive but they can't always protect you.
I think WA and the police are good options.

Spottyblancmange Thu 06-Sep-12 13:14:39

Even if I thought it was best, I don't actually have any way to contact her family. As far as I know, her family are all still in her home country.

Dondon, they are from the same country. I don't know if he knows about the help available, or the way DV is viewed, and I'm not sure if she is fully aware either. I think I do need to try and let her know about that, I suppose if you've never had to look into accessing it before it's hard for anyone to know what help there is. (I read that back and it sounds really patronising towards her, I don't mean it to!)

I'm in work this afternoon and I'm going to drop a leaflet I picked up for WA in her pigeonhole, and try and set up something for lunch tomorrow.

Spottyblancmange Thu 20-Sep-12 21:49:59

I hope it's okay to bump this, wanted to update a little.

She admitted to me a couple of days ago that he has been hitting her, but she seems convinced that she caused it. She mentioned a couple of specific recent incidents, but placing all the blame on herself. "it was my fault because I did X and made him angry.

I told her I didn't think it was her fault, that whatever she'd done, it's not acceptable for him to lash out at her like that. I'm just wondering if people think that's the right type of thing to say? It was my instinct that I should try and tell her it wasn't her fault, because of course it isn't, but I'm doubting myself now.

dondon33 Fri 21-Sep-12 09:37:04

Don't doubt yourself Spotty, he is 100% to blame for lifting his hands to her, no matter what. He made the decision to lose his self control, not her.

It sounds like he's done a good job of battering her confidence and making her feel guilty sad bastard

I don't really know what else you can do except be there for her and yeah, keep telling her she doesn't have to put up with it and that help is available.

aufaniae Fri 21-Sep-12 10:22:11

Please don't drop the DV leaflet in her pigeon hole anonymously. I would hate to be on the receiving end of that personally, it would make me paranoid about what people were thinking of me!

Knowing she has a friend to reach out to could be a great help though. I think lunch is a great idea. And keep the leaflet. If you find she's opening up to you, then giving it to her could be a good idea.

It may take her a long time to leave him. I think consistency in your friendship is important. Let her know she can confide in you if she wants, but don't make your friendship all about that. Why not start going for lunch every so often together, if she is your friend anyway? Perhaps she could do with the company of a friend just to talk about normal stuff too? If she's in an abusive relationship it's possible she could be quite isolated from non-work friends. And easier to hide the evidence from them too, as she doesn't have to see them every day.

I also reckon recommending mumsnet is a great idea! smile

aufaniae Fri 21-Sep-12 10:24:00

And of course it wasn't her fault. Your instincts were right the first time.

Spottyblancmange Fri 21-Sep-12 18:17:34

I ended up not putting the leaflet in her pigeonhole because our boss had decided to refresh the posters in the bathroom including one about DV with a few on different subjects, one on cancer, stress support etc so hopefully it just looks like they've got new ones, rather than aimed specifically at her.

We always tend to eat lunch together in the canteen most days, and I always invite her out on a Friday, it's always been my out for lunch day, and she's coming more regularly which is good, she used to always check with her DP even about that, but she seems a little more confident to just come now. Obviously if she says no I don't force the issue or anything.

I think he really has completely convinced her it's all her fault. I told her I disagreed, but I could tell she didn't believe me. Then I doubted whether I should have said that, but you are both right, it's true so of course I should say it. Thank you both for your replies.

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