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Friends in Need: Interventions for Domestic Violence

Last month, I received the following letter from an old friend, Lloyd Barnhart.

“One topic that I would like you to cover / explore is that curious phenomenon that allows otherwise independent women to be dominated … even abused … by men with whom they share some kind of relationship. Why is it that a apparently strong woman, an intelligent woman would allow herself to be hurt … her life would be negatively altered by some guy she has some kind of relationship with. I currently know a couple of such women and feel completely powerless with regard to alleviating their problem (which they apparently don’t see).

“I realize that we / you could attack this from the other angle: Why would a man want to completely dominate a woman to the point where she ceases to exist as an individual? But, for now … help me understand this from the point of view of the feminine perspective “.

I will be happy and hope the following information answers your questions. Of course, each person involved in violent situations has their own reason for living that way. In general, women who remain in situations of abuse or violence are more afraid of being alone than of being with the abusive husband. You may also be afraid of what he will do if she leaves. Usually she is financially dependent on him. If the couple has children, the woman feels even more committed and trapped: she believes that she is protecting the children. The more time passes, the weaker, more dependent and “stagnant” it becomes. Abusive men are narcissistic, they have “Jekyll and Hyde” personalities, which means that they can be charming when they are not abusing. Women who remain in abusive situations focus on this charm and deny the abuse. They also have the experience of their husbands speaking smoothly to rid themselves of any liability for misconduct, for example if she once called 911 and he got the police to believe that nothing was wrong. The woman feels desperate and defenseless, that no one will believe her or help her out. She is also ashamed and does not want people to know her misery. Several women have combinations of all or some of these reasons for staying.

The question here that worries most of us would be, “What can I do to help?” Here are some steps you can take when you think a friend or family member is in this situation.

1. Educate yourself about the options. Before trying to help, make sure you know what the options are for the woman and her children. Obtain a domestic violence hotline number, (National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) the number for child protection services (ask the operator for your local Child Abuse Hotline, visit www.childhelpusa). org or call 1-800-4 A Child) and local women’s shelter numbers Call the numbers, explain that you want to help a friend, and find out what information these organizations need to help your friend or family member. a list of the information you will need to provide. The National Domestic Violence Hotline website has a lot of helpful information at any details you can. Remember, you are probably feeling desperate and powerless, and perhaps even worthless, she will need friends to guide her every step of the way.

2. A violent spouse has impaired impulse control and can leave violently at any time. It is vital that no one talks to the husband, because if he is angry, he can take it out on his family. Understand that if he’s really violent, talking to him won’t work. Your wife and children must be safe before anyone approaches you. Once the family is safe, you can offer anger management classes or suggest therapy. Don’t be surprised if you blame your wife for your anger. Understand that if you involve child protective services and the wife does not walk away from her husband, the children may be placed in protective custody. Furthermore, if the wife enters a women’s shelter, with her children, she will lose her job, if she has one, and will not be able to communicate with her relative from the shelter. The shelters emphasize that women cannot go anywhere their husbands look for them, or they could bring a violent man to the shelter and endanger everyone there.

3. Find a couple of friends or family you can trust not to tell your husband what you know, and talk to them to find out what they know about the situation and if they would be willing to help. If you are unsure about the abuse or violence, they may be able to confirm your fears or reassure you. If you find that your fears are confirmed, make it clear to everyone that your friend is in real danger. Make a plan of what each of you is willing to do to help. Perhaps a family member can take her and the children in, and keep her surrounded and safe from her husband if she becomes angry. Maybe you can hook her up to a women’s shelter. You may be able to help her obtain a restraining order or an order for protection against violence against her husband. Some of you may know enough facts to testify on your behalf. He may be able to help her view the websites on a computer that her husband will not be able to access.

4. Once the first three steps have been taken, you should talk to the woman who is in danger. If you, a relative, or one of the other friends can take her away from her husband alone, do so. Do not leave revealing phone messages or emails, because women in these situations are often closely monitored by their husbands. Find a way to meet her alone.

5. Once you have her alone, tell her what you know about her situation. This can mortify her, but it is important that she knows that you know it. Let her know that you care about her, that you are willing to help her if she wants help, and what you can do for her. She needs to know that she has support and protection, because walking away from this man is very scary for her. He may tell you that he’s fine, that he doesn’t need help. She may even be mad at you. In that case, don’t be angry or upset. Instead, tell him that if he ever needs help, you are available. You can print the “Family Violence Questions and Answers” article from my website and leave it to her.

6. If your friend has children, believes the children are in danger and will not do anything, she may need to call the child abuse hotline without your permission. This will not be easy, because then the family will be investigated, the children can be taken, and both parents will be required to take parenting classes and domestic violence classes to regain custody of the children. Child Protective Services will award temporary custody to a safe relative in the meantime, if someone is willing.

None of this is nice or easy, but if you honestly think the relationship is abusive or violent, it’s the kindest thing to do. Remember that situations of domestic violence or abuse do not improve without intervention.