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How to help friend in abusive relationship

(10 Posts)
sian05 Thu 17-Mar-16 14:20:23

I would like some advice on how to help a friend of mine and DH's who is in an abusive relationship. She has been with her partner about 18 months and they are engaged and living together in her house. We haven't ever met him as she lives about 100 miles away. A few alarm bells did start to ring last summer when we tried to arrange a time to meet up as we would usually do two or three times a year and she either wasn't responding to messages (voice and text) or gave very brief replies.

DH finally saw her in October at an event they go to every year. She then told him that her relationship was not good. Her partner was controlling, had hit her once and that she thought he had hacked her phone (hence her reluctance to send messages). Because he lives in her house she said she can't leave and is afraid if she changes the locks he will break in. However, she then also said she did love him and thinks if he got help everything would be ok - she feels the aggression is as a result of PTSD as he is ex-army.

She sent a text a week later to say she had had a long talk with her partner and he was very tearful and everything was good.

DH tried to stay in touch but again her responses were limited. We tried to arrange another meet up but on the day we couldn't get hold of her by phone or text. We finally got a message to say things were complicated and sorry we hadn't been able to meet.

Two weeks ago my DH got a birthday card from her with a cheery message but inside was a post it note inside asking us to destroy it after reading saying things weren't good, she was afraid everything was being read and hacked again and that she didn't want to lose contact with us. She is in our area next weekend has said she will come and see us then.

Because of the distance and limited contact I almost feel like this is our only chance to be able to help her. I have read some advice online but would like to know what the most important things we can do for her are - is it just to reassure her we support her or is there anything practical we or she can do? I know a lot will depend on whether she feels ready and able to leave the relationship but want to make sure we are doing all we can. We are both really worried about her.

Morasssassafras Thu 17-Mar-16 17:47:36

I know for me the most important thing would have been to know that you would be there for me, even if I wasn't ready to leave yet and that I could literally phone day or night if I had a problem or needed to talk and that you would be there to support me emotionally and practically (pay for a hotel for the night etc), and that you wouldn't judge me. It will be worse than she's said so far. She saw the nice him and will cling to the belief that he can return to that. One day she'll realise that the 9O% good is outweighed by the 10% bad, and that the bad is the real person and everything else is just to keep her there.

Thank you for being there for her.

Also the law changed last December so certain coercion and controlling behaviour is now specifically illegal, have a read up of it so if anything she says is mentioned there then you can point to it.

I don't know if you saw it but there was a documentary on BBC this week called 'Behind Closed Doors' which may give you a hint to the difficult task that victims can have working out that the behaviour is actually domestic abuse, that people will believe them and that they can't help the abuser to get better.

Cathpot Thu 17-Mar-16 17:58:35

I rang woman's aid years ago on behalf of a friend ( who sadly hasn't left yet). They said that you can't do anything until the person is ready to leave the relationship themselves but a practical step was to arrange a coded sentence for them to be able to say 'come and get me' or 'I'm coming to you today' in an apparently innocuous way so they could have that conversation in front of their partner without them realising what was being arranged.

sian05 Thu 17-Mar-16 21:15:06

Thank you for both your replies. I think you are right that the most important thing is that she knows we are there for her and that we absolutely don't judge her and understand her lack of contact isn't through choice. That was the impression I got from her note - that she is worried we think she wants to lose contact. We were also concerned at her request to destroy it as that seems like a paranoia he will find out she wrote it.

I will definitely look into the changes in the law and also suggest to her some kind of code if she needs to leave or needs help.

The other thing I am worried about is as it is her house they are living in if she wants end the relationship how can she get him out? Or if she gets to the point where she physically leaves him and moves out again how does she get him out of her house?

Thanks again for any help and advice

Morasssassafras Fri 18-Mar-16 08:18:01

It's only paranoid is someone isn't out to get you. Living in an abusive relationship, especially one where she thinks/knows he has hacked or is watching her could have bought on a kind of seige mentality. She'll be taking whatever steps she thinks she needs to to stay safe, even if they don't make sense to an outsider. She knows, to an extent, what he is capable of.

I think that if it's solely her house then she can literally tell him to go and call the police to remove him and take back the keys if he won't. Easier said than done obviously and it's important to know a woman is most at risk at the time she leaves/tells him to leave and for the next two weeks. If it happens following an assault etc then the police should be able to help with extra security for her if not then possibly staying elsewhere or having someone stay with her may be wise, dependant on her perception of the danger he poses. I've just reread your op and with possible ptsd and ex-army she should go for the safest option possible.

I think it might be helpful to somehow get her in touch with women's aid, or her local domestic abuse service (Google her town and domestic abuse and you should get a number and i'm sure they'd be happy to speak to you initially).

Also she would be able to use clare's law to find out if he has previous for this, it's a process though so it wouldn't be immediate. I believe it is possible for someone to do this on her behalf and if the police think she needs the information then they give it to her, not you/whoever asks. Also worth looking into because it would put her on their radar as a possible victim. If it doesn't flag anything then she would never need to know you'd done this, especially as a lack of historical evidence of abuse does not mean that he is not abusive.

sian05 Fri 18-Mar-16 11:55:43

Thanks Morasssassafras . Sorry, I hope it didn't sound offensive when I said about her sounding paranoid. I can understand why she would feel like that - I meant that it added to our concern that she must have felt worried or afraid even writing the post-it note.

I will get the contact number for Women's Aid and try to find a local domestic abuse service. I will also look at Clare's law. I know he has a child that he has contact with but I don't know anything about his relationship with the child's mother.

At the moment its been hard knowing what to do so it's really good to have this advice and to be able to get some information to hand for her. Hopefully now when we see her next week and get to talk to her properly we can offer some emotional and constructive support instead of feeling a bit helpless as we have done so far.

Morasssassafras Fri 18-Mar-16 18:28:08

It was possibly me being oversensitive.

She's very lucky to have friends who not only care but are being proactive. I'm absolutely certain she will appreciate it.

Please reassure her that when she chooses to leave people/the authorities will believe her even if she has nothing she would consider to be evidence. There is help and support. She can be safe.

Pannacott Fri 18-Mar-16 19:39:56

If you look on this Relationships board, there is a lot of advice about how to separate from an abusive relationship. What will be helpful for you will could be reading the anxieties of the women struggling to leave - that they aren't sure it's really abuse, perhaps it's their fault, what if he stops them leaving, how will they be able to tell people, feelings of shame, being too scared to address the problem, feeling frozen about what to do. It is quite likely she will be feeling many of those things. The other really helpful thing could be how people respond to the posters, both in terms of emotional support, and practical guidance. You aren't experienced in dealing with these issues, but lots of the people these boards are, and you can channel their experience. Also look out for what original posters say they find helpful, in terms of support and guidance from others. Good luck and good on you for helping.

sian05 Fri 18-Mar-16 23:10:32

Thank you. I have got the number for Women's Aid and found a local number for her area as you suggested. I also read an article on controlling or coercive behaviour and was struck by the examples such as limiting access to family and friends, monitoring a person by using tracking apps and stopping them from socialising. I know she has given up one of her hobbies. It gave me the shivers a bit wondering if this is how she is having to live - I hope that doesn't sound stupid

I will look for other posts relating to this to try and get an idea of what may be going through her mind and what others found helpful. It won't really be until we see her face to face that we can gauge how she is doing and how she feels about the relationship. I am kind of preparing myself for the fact she may say that everything's fine now. But I do feel a bit better knowing that I can offer some advice if she wants it even if it's just making her aware of support that's around so she can keep it in the back of her mind.

sian05 Thu 07-Apr-16 11:40:02

Hi. Just wanted to post a brief update. We saw our friend a couple of weeks ago and as you suggested the abuse was worse than she had said and he had also been hitting her. The good news (sorry good seems a crass word to use but not sure what else to use) was that she had told her GP what was happening and they had made her contact Women’s Aid so she was getting support from them.

We don’t know exactly what happened as we didn’t press the issue and just let her tell us what she wanted to but it seems things escalated to the point of the police being involved and she said she was identified as high risk. He has now left her house and she returned with a police escort to pick up some things. She stayed with friends for a couple of nights before coming to ours and stayed with another friend after leaving. She is now back home and has changed the locks. Because she is high risk if he does come back the police will be straight there. She said they want her to press charges but she wasn’t sure if she was up to that.

Thanks for the advice it really did help when talking to her. It’s a relief to be able to have contact with her again now she can use her phone without fear so we can check on how she is doing and just be there more to support her.

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