Just how different is the view from the outside, compared to the inside, of an abusive relationship?
From the outside looking into an abusive relationship, it can be tempting to judge a person who is staying with someone who is hurting them. However, from the outside, it’s nearly impossible to know the full story of how that person thinks and feels about their relationship, as well as their reasons for staying with their partner.
For this reason, our first suggested step to helping someone who is involved in an abusive relationship is to try your hardest to avoid judging that person and their decisions. We know that this can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re emotionally invested in the person who is being hurt. Not only can it make you feel confused because you don’t understand their reasons for staying, but also you may feel sad and scared, as you want that person to be safe and respected.
Someone who is being abused does not want the abuse to happen and did not do anything to “deserve” being treated that way.
Although some people who are being abused may not want their relationship to end, they always want the abuse to end. Always. People have diverse reasons for wanting to stay in a relationship, even when enduring relationship abuse, and we cannot fully understand or judge their decision. They may have children together, own a house together, and share a social circle. They may have good memories of happy times in their relationship, and find it hard to imagine their life without their partner. When we begin to fully appreciate the complexity of people’s lives, we can see that very rarely are there clear-cut, easy answers as to whether a significant intimate relationship should end or continue. Even when the answer seems simple, the steps required to end that relationship can be very, very difficult. In some cases, those steps are life-threatening.
Therefore, we suggest that the first step to helping a person who you know or suspect is being abused is to approach the situation and the person with a non-judgmental, supportive perspective and an open mind. Any judgment that the person perceives from you could lead them to turn away from you and view you as unhelpful, regardless of how positive and supportive your intentions may be.
Here are three statements you can make to remind yourself to remain non-judgmental:
* “I don’t know the whole story.”
* “I have no idea how I would respond if I was in this person’s exact same situation.”
* “I can best help this person by supporting them, not judging them.”
Although this is the first step we suggest, we know it may be one of the most difficult. However, it is also perhaps the most important step in being able to help and support someone who is being abused. By providing a supportive, nonjudgmental presence for that person, you can provide a powerful statement about how important it is to understand and honor their value as a person, as well as their unique perspective on their situation and relationship.
This information has been adapted from materials in the How to Help a Friend Collection from See the Triumph. Visit See the Triumph at www.seethetriumph.org for more information.