If your friend is in a physically abusive relationship, they are already in danger and need to be removed from their situation. Sometimes a victim feels powerless in this situation and doesn’t know where to begin or feels they can’t do anything about it out of fear of their abuser.
If the relationship is still mental and emotionally abusive, their partners will eventually get physically violent. It may not happen right away, but the signs are there.
There are some things you can do to help a friend trapped in a relationship of this nature:
1. Educate Yourself. There are many resources available you can use to become well informed of domestic violence in all aspects. Any battered women’s shelter and/or police station will be able to get you resources to get you started.
2. Understand your friend may not realize he/she is in danger and or may refuse to see it from that point of view. Victims tend to rationalize the abuser’s behavior, “The stress at work,” “He’s not sleeping well,” “I didn’t have the house clean,” and on and on and on. They may not see their abuser capable of being physically violent in any capacity simply because they are in a long term relationship and may have children together.
3. No matter what your friend sees it’s vital to start asking them some questions. How does she feel about it? Does she feel safe? What will she do if he starts to hit her? Does she have kids and what will happen if he starts to hurt them? Does she have an escape plan if he/she does get violent? Do they have a safe place to go, access to money that only they can get to, etc…?
4. Giving your friend resources about domestic violence and how to get safe. You will need to do this without the abuser knowing. Maybe keep the resources with you and have her read them with you, then keep them back before she goes home. Be creative with this one. Don’t worry about them being offended. True friends care enough to warn one another when danger is upon them! He/She will come to appreciate it down the road.
5. These things can always help and you may need to help your friend with getting these done. Make extra key sets to the house and cars. Get credit in their own name and have the bill sent anywhere other than her address. You can get a PO Box or a private mail box for this. Open a bank account in their own name. Even if she has one already, have her do another one in a completely different bank–again use a different address. This will be helpful if in the event he tries to stalk her at her bank, or takes all her banking materials away–she will have a back up. A Bank deposit box can be helpful to store extra cash, photos, the important papers and anything else important like jewelry. Keep the key at a friend’s house or at their place of employment.
Important papers to get copies of: birth certificates, marriage certificates, taxes, information about the abuser (name, social, place of employment with complete address. That helps in the event of needing child support enforced and other court related matters if necessary), health insurance information, immunization records, social security cards for the kids, prescription medications, car insurance policies, etc… If you can’t get copies of these, write all the information down on a couple of pieces of paper. When your friend is finally safe, they will be take those papers out and call the various agencies and request copies and duplicates of what they need.
All of this is secondary to making sure your friend is safe. If they are in absolute danger, call the police immediately. You wouldn’t go in after your belongings if your home was on fire. Same concept. Safety is more important than personal papers.
7. Develop a code word or signal. Many people have had success by developing a code word with their friends or neighbors. If this codeword is spoken or signal given, it’s an indication from your friend they need to have the police called ASAP. Examples: “Blue bag” If your friend calls and says something like, “Did I leave my blue bag in your car after lunch the other day? Oh, ok, thanks,” and hangs up…call the police. Some people have used a lamp they leave off all the time. If your friend felt in danger, she could move her self to the room where the lamp is and turn it on. If your neighbor notices, they need to call the police. The lamp example has some draw backs, but you get the idea.
For more information about domestic violence, visit http://www.ndvh.org