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Please can you help me help my emotionally abused friend??

(9 Posts)
Proudnscary Sat 20-Oct-12 08:50:38

I've posted about her before. I am not only worried about her, I am at a crucial stage of listening/supporting/counselling her and don't want to get this wrong.

I am 100% sure he is EA. Manipulating, gaslighting, putting her down but passing it off as a joke, financial and sexual abuse (not extreme - he's clever and subtle).

After 25 years and three children her eyes have been opened. She's dealing with it by teling him it's his problem, she won't accept his behaviour anymore - she realises she can never be 'good enough' for him.

BUT she still says he 'doesn't mean to hurt her'. AND she is not at the point of ultimatum or working out her own dealbreaker.

She says she will stay for the dc. But they row a lot, she gets very angry and she cries a lot. She says they don't know.

They are not in a great financial position - he is a teaching assistant, she works part time in a clothes store.

My questions are:

Do I mention the word 'abuse'? I never have.
Do I show her WA website or similar to show her his behaviour is classic EA?
Or will that be counterproductive if she's not ready to accept that or tells herself 'well ok he does that, but he doesn't do that etc'?
What do I say to her about the dc (as anyone who knows me on here knows, I am all for staying together for dc but NOT where there is abuse and turbulence)?
Do I come out and say 'I think you should leave him' rather than just keep exploring her feelings?
DO I BUTT OUT AND SIMPLY CONTINUE TO LISTEN TO HER AND BE A SHOULDER TO LEAN ON?

Fuckitthatlldo Sat 20-Oct-12 09:28:06

This is always a difficult situation. It is so hard to watch someone we care about go through this. Your friend is very fortunate to have someone in her corner - many victims of domestic abuse are totally isolated from all support.

What I would say (and I work in da service provision so have some professional idea of what I'm talking about) is that yes, I would give her information about Women's Aid - website, numbers, e.t.c. and encourage her to seek support if she feels ready and able to do so. You could always offer to go with her if that is something you feel comfortable with.

However, as hard as it is, you then have to accept that you have done what you can and can do no more, bar just being there for her. Unfortunately we cannot make people see the gravity of their situation. You cannot make her accept that she is being abused, that his behaviour is deliberate, and that she is entitled to professional and legal support - this is a conclusion she has to reach on her own, when she is ready.

Leaving an abusive relationship is a massive, massive decision with all sorts of implications as far as safety is concerned. Women attempt, on average, to leave between 7 and 35 times before finally making the break for good. Long term emotional abuse has devastating effects on a woman's sense of self. But sometimes, someone actually putting a name to what is happening can really help, even if it's just planting that first seed.

RandomMess Sat 20-Oct-12 09:35:13

I'm no expert but as well as everything said about by the knowledgable posters I would express to her that she will get a lot of financial support on her wages if she leaves and that she will get help to be rehomed etc etc just tell her that lack of money shouldn't be a reason and that however well she thinks she is hiding it from the dc they will subconciously know and be learning their patterns for how a relationship works and does she want it for them.

Perhaps most of all give her big hugs and your reassurance that you'll always be her friend regardless of her choices?

Proudnscary Sat 20-Oct-12 10:14:28

Thank you so much for your replies.

The thing is the EA is not 'bad enough' (I know, I know) to make her need to leave urgently. It's insidious, subtle, clever...but she is on to him and that's a huge, huge step.

She knows I and other friends are there for her. I can help her financially.

What I have felt in the past is that I had to be careful not to say too many negative things about him because every time she's had a bad episode with him she then 'resolves' it and then is embarassed and humiliated and tries to minimise what happened - so I don't want her to feel stupid that we all know and yet again she's not left him.

I will think about showing her WA website, but I'm very nervous about it - opening a can of worms that can't be shoved back in said can.

Fuckitthatlldo Sat 20-Oct-12 11:18:34

Well ultimately it is down to your friend to decide what is 'bad enough' (my quotation marks aren't meant to seem sarcastic, I can see what you're trying to communicate) and whether she wants to leave. The fact is that all and any domestic abuse puts victims in a situation that is unsafe.

Bear in mind also that there may be things she is too embarrassed or ashamed to share even with you. Domestic abuse tends to be progressive and in the vast majority of cases becomes worse over time. Emotional abuse can be a precursor to physical abuse too, especially if the emotional abuse ceases to remain effective as a means of control, which I think is something well worth remembering.

I think you are quite right to be careful about how you speak to her about her partner. One of the terrible things about abuse within families is the awful sense of conflicted loyalties people feel. They are being treated terribly by someone they may well love, and who often claims to love them - it is incredibly confusing. No wonder victims find it so difficult to accept the behaviour might be deliberate. But you can help her to identify her experience as the abuse it is without overtly insulting or bad-mouthing her husband, and really, that is the approach I would take. For example you can say: this behaviour constitutes verbal and emotional abuse, rather than: your husband is an emotionally abusive bastard. See what I mean?

Above all, remember that this situation is not your responsibility and that you don't have any power over it. All you can do is support her as best you can. Ultimately, it is up to her.

porridgelover Sat 20-Oct-12 11:31:56

OP as above, ultimately it is up to her and the best help you can give her is to continue to be there for her; a listening and non-judgemental ear. In some part of her head, she may well know things are not OK. But any attack on him will prompt her to defend him, entrenching herself even more.
I am not an expert on this...but I have lived it. I laughed at my counsellor for saying that I was being abused; I thought it was a way for me to avoid all my faults and failings...cos of course it was all my fault (hah!) and he was blameless hmm
I read Co-Dependent No More and thought it was nothing to do with me the first time. I also wish I had read this before I married and had DC.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 20-Oct-12 13:02:49

Personally, I think some people need a push. Some get it from reading a book, others from what friends or counsellors observe. It's not like she's in total denial. She's half-way there by the sound of it and I think now would actually be a good time to be honest. Say you believe she is being abused, say those 'negative things, that she's being damaged, the children are being damaged and that you'll support her if she leaves. It's a judgement, yes, and of course you risk her leaping to his defence and scuttling off. However, I think that constant pussy-footing by friends can result in the sufferer wrongly believing 'things aren't so bad if my friends are OK with it'... and continuing to back off - however well-intentioned - could make everything drag on for many more years.

When my EA exH left I was horrified at the number of friends that said words to the effect of... 'we never liked him but we didn't like to say anything'... There's no right way to do this but you can always defend telling the truth.

struwelpeter Sat 20-Oct-12 14:19:10

Only experience behind what I'm saying but I think the good man/bad man diagram from Pat Craven's Freedom Programme website is a quite softly, softly introduction.
It shows in a list what a "normal" supportive relationship is about and the kind of stuff an abuser does. It's a check list and may get her thinking a bit more deeply.
Also read the links at the top of the EA thread and perhaps you will see there some stuff that you may think work as a way of bringing the topic up.
And just seeing "normal" relationships in which arguments get resolved, people negotiate to improve a situation and can listen to each other's feelings without attacking back is a good, less direct message.
It's great that she's got such supportive and understanding friends around her

Lovingfreedom Sat 20-Oct-12 14:23:35

I've got a friend like this too and have simular dilemma. I've always taken line of it's your life...will be there for you whatever you decide. It got so bad and her DH left for 3 months. Another friend and I said good and we were helping her to make proper break. But then she went quiet. Knew they were back together.

She says ALL her friends say leave him. She apologises when she doesn't and seems ashamed. She says she's in awe of me for dealing with my marriage break. But she is very successful professionally and very capable in all ways. Lots of friends and nice family. She would be so much better off without him and finances would be no prob.

We're going round in circles as things slowly escalate re his behaviour but she won't make a break. She says she liked it when he was away. But she doesn't want to break up the family.

Her DH is verbally abusive, physically intimidating, puts her down even in front of her friends, unfaithful including when she was in hospital having DC2. He behaves like a playboy and is a total twat.

Trouble is that my friend's self esteem is such that you feel like you are putting more pressure on her by advising her to leave, or pointing out how abusive he is. She is embarrassed, ashamed etc to stay with him and constantly says she wishes she was like me or other friends who have made the break....but she can't.

By being there when things are bad and saying its your life...up to you...etc feels like enabling it. Cos then he turns on the charm for a week or so, takes her on hols and its back round the same loop.

She sent me a text saying she can't believe how well I'm dealing with such a terrible time in my life. I've texted back saying its not terrible. I'm having great time and I'm genuinely happy. God...what can you do eh?

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