Today, Jane came to visit with her arm in a cast, and tears streaming down her face. Finally, she admits the truth of her existence for the past two (2) years - Jane is being abused by her husband. Now what?
Dinner was thrown on the floor because it wasn't hot enough. There are holes in the walls. Her credit cards have been hidden away, and has no access to cash other than an allowance to purchase household items. She lost her job due to frequent absences. Being called a fat "wh*** and an ugly bitch are daily occurrences, the cast on her arm is due to being pushed down the stairs, and he's cheating. All this is communicated as Jane cries out in frustration and hurt, wanting the abuse to end.
Of course, your first response is to hug and make her feel better, fixing the problem; but you know it's not that simple.
Be prepared to just listen with your whole heart. As you hear some of the things Jane has been through, she also shares how he often apologizes, bringing her flowers or a card. Clearly, she's afraid and due to frequent gaslighting, emotionally broken and confused about the next step. Perhaps she is blaming herself for everything that is going on, or embarrassed. Despite everything, maybe she still wants to hang on. Even worse, she feels trapped in a situation beyond her control. She doesn't understand the man she married.
Don't pressure her to leave right away, but ask instead if she's ready to leave? Right now, she's reaching out for the first time, yet hoping that the husband she loves can and will change allowing the nightmare to end. Ask if she has any money stashed away, suggest she ride with you to get a spare key made for the car so he can't check the mileage when he comes home from work. Gather pertinent documents like car insurance, birth certificates, license, phone numbers, etc. and keep them in a safe place like your home. Reminder to erase data from the computer. Then when it's safe, practice an escape plan.
This is a good time to point out that domestic violence includes verbal and mental abuse, withholding of finances, physical violence, using the kids or family against you, and isolation. Now that you know, it's all about the safety of Jane. It's all about helping her to get her life back.
Still, know that even if she leaves, there's a chance she'll go back. Don't judge or be angry with her because that's not what she needs. Be ready to listen and encourage her all over again. Let her know how much you care, and be that shoulder she can always lean on. She still may not leave. Get past your frustration and do the same thing all over again. Eventually, something you say will stick, something will happen one day that will make her say, "enough is enough", and she will leave for good, getting another chance to be happy either alone or with someone else who genuinely loves who she is. Remind her that she is not to blame, and we all deserve to be respected. I promise that you're going to become angry and very frustrated. Don't give up on her.
Despite hearing about sports figures or celebrities who abuse their significant others, or women who have lost their lives or self-esteem due to domestic violence, this is a silent crime that continues to be swept under the carpet. This is about your sister, your neighbor, your friend, your cousin, your mother, your niece, your aunt and your child who need help and guidance. Reach out and offer your support and love. Anything you do may make a difference and save a life.
In the US: call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
UK: call Women’s Aid at 0808 2000 247.
Australia: call 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732.
Worldwide: visit International Directory of Domestic Violence Agencies for a global list of helplines, shelters, and crisis centers. This site offers assistance in various languages.
If you live in NC:
919-828-7740 | 866-291-0855 toll-free
919-828-3005 | 866-291-0853 toll-free
Solace Center: 919-828-3067 | 866-291-0854 toll-free
US: visit Womenslaw.org for a state-by-state directory of domestic violence shelters in the U.S.
* Not real name