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Thread: Supporting others in abusive situations

  1. #1
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    Attention Supporters

    Hey

    Thank you sincerely for your desire to support our fellow survivor! We all need support, and are glad there are people like you!

    Abuse is a confusing thing for both survivors and supporters, so we're open to discuss any questions you might have about what it's like to be an abuse survivor, why we do what we do, how we feel about things, etc. Please keep in mind though that we aren't counselors, we're just a bunch of anonymous folks who have been abused and are trying to recover from this trauma. We can't tell you what you should do, or what your partner should do, and can't guesstimate what they must be feeling or thinking. We can only share how we felt or what we thought in similar circumstances. Naturally, each of us has their own feelings, thoughts, and opinions, we often disagree (which is a wonderful thing), so please take what you read with a grain of salt

    We hope for your understanding in this matter, and wish you and your loved one best of luck on their healing journey!
    Last edited by Manya; 02-07-2012 at 09:18 AM.
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  3. #2
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    Supporting others in abusive situations

    Hi there,

    I was hoping some one could help me out with a situation so I can better support my partner.

    My fiancťe in her last relationship was subject to domestic violence for several years. She has suggested that I could better understand what she went through if I was to talk to other people who have been through similar experiences and help me see a new perspective. That is what I hope to achieve from this post.

    One issue that I struggle to understand is why donít those in this sort of abusive relationship leave or leave sooner. I presume most people in these sort of relationships know that it isnít healthy or safe for them so why donít they just leave? My fiancťe agrees with the statement that she should have left sooner but got very upset and hurt when I said it as a statement too. She said that I had no right to say something like that. I know that it might seem like a very Iím trying to learn more so I can relate and support her instead of upsetting her, which is never my intent.

    She says that I canít understand the fear that she went through so Iím hoping some one on here is secure enough and comfortable enough to share some of their past experiences so I can try to understand how things were for her.

    I by far havenít handled the information about her past abuse very well at all, to be really honest Iíve handed it terribly and caused her a lot of pain over it. when she first told me about it and every time since when the subject has come up, I felt more useless then I ever have. Here is a girl that I fell in love with as soon as I met her, she is my world and the single most important thing to me. Yet I couldnít stop her from having to go through all those terrible things, I couldnít protect her from any of that, she had to go through all that crap and there was nothing I could do to help her or keep that from her. Not knowing how to deal with feeling or expressing all of that Iíve acted out poorly about the whole thing and havenít been the supportive partner I should have been. But I want to change that and be that person.

    Iím hoping some one on here could spare the time to share their experiences with me so that I can better understand what she went through and be able to see things from her point of view, to be able to in a way empathise with her. It is very hard to find a women who are willing to talk about something so personal especially to a man. But Iím trying all the avenues that I can to be a better partner about her abuse.

    I hope that I havenít offended any one I just want to try to be more supportive of her concerning all of this.

    Thank you for your time and help to any one who response it is greatly appreciate.

  4. #3
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    Hi...

    Can only speak from experience. Last thing I wanted when I at last got away from my abusive partner was people judging me...telling me what I should have done...it upset me, made me feel invalidated and blamed. Wanted to scream at people who did this that their insensitivity was not helping.

    I felt supported when rather than offering me their opinions people listened to me and respected my right to feel as I did, recover in my own way, at my own pace...accepted that I had done and was continuing to do my best...heal from the difficult life-altering situation I had been through.

    We have some excellent resources on domestic violence and related subjects in our library that you may find useful.
    Rest in my arms precious child; cradled and warm. You are safe. The war is over.

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  6. #4
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    hey

    first of all, glad you posted - awareness and understanding certainly helps and is the best thing around really, honest questions invite honest answers, hope you get lots of constructive input

    we got some stuff in our library that you might wanna check out, particularly:
    why do women stay - attempts to answer your question, cuz its a common thing
    safety planning for battered women - not relevant to your gf anymore since she already left, but could give an idea of what exactly leaving a dv relationship involves on practice
    stockholm syndrome - talks of how emotional connection with a perpetrator of abuse works, which affects ones ability to leave even if the practicalities are taken care of
    tips for secondary survivors - just a good page on what survivors generally want from their friends/relatives/significant others

    i totally hear how it makes little sense, that one would stay in an abusive situation instead of just leaving. thing is - you cant leave. its what makes it abuse. if one was free to go (or to fight back), it would be called "dating a jerk" instead. happens, is deeply unpleasant, but has little to do with abuse imho. abuse is when you cant leave. its a trap. that the perp creates and maintains, consciously or not. usually consciously. its not visible to outsiders, but its very much there, and its what keeps the victim in the relationship.

    what the perp might trap you with is up to their creativity really. can be blackmail. can be threats to kill/harm kids, parents, siblings, friends, etc. pets. could be taking control of finances, so you literally have no money to leave with - and i dont mean half of the savings, i mean $10 for gas. pardon tmi - when i was preparing to leave mine, i hid cash rolled up in one of my tampons, sealed the wrapper with an iron, cuz sealed tampons was the only place he didnt search regularly. could be threats to ruin your career (send nude pics to employer or something). could be just threats to kill you if you try - to an outsider it might sound like just words, empty threat - but its actually quite likely for a dv perp to attempt to murder the victim who is trying to leave. for tons of reasons, but one of them is - battery is a felony, if she talks he'd be looking at a lengthy prison sentence, and shes likely to talk cuz she gets more social security benefits as a dv victim, and she desperately needs them if she ran off and is homeless/unemployed/etc. if he had no problem committing felonies before (beating her up on regular basis), whats to stop him from killing her out of self-preservation, to not go to prison for dv; clearly the guy has anger issues and no reserve about violence...

    also, all of the above applies only once you at least realize that whats happening isnt right and you need to leave. abuse involves lotsa brainwashing. i mean, she was in love with the guy at some point, picked him voluntarily, stayed with him happily for a while - and not like when he started to beat her up he just said "alrighty now, honeymoon is over, now im gonna be beating you up, just suck up and deal with it, tough luck". of course he snows her with all sorts of rationalizations: that it was a one-time thing, he had a hard day at work and snapped, she provoked him, she shouldnt have done this and that, he'll never do it again, she'll be more careful next time, etc. i mean, its the person she loves saying this. makes you doubt your perception - maybe i really was wrong and provoked him somehow, he never does this to anyone else, i must be a horrible person if thats how he treats me, etc, etc, etc.

    how soon one leaves also depends largely on their support network - how many people they talk to about whats going on. if there is at least one such person. and how does that person respond. first time i gathered the guts to tell someone whats going on, the person i spoke to responded that yeah, shes sorry for me, and worries about my safety, but to her it doesnt look like anything can be done here, looks like im stuck with this for life lol. i mean, its gonna sound ridiculous - but that was the only input i had on my situation, so i accepted this answer and stayed for a coupla years more. im pretty sure if she emphatically told me this wasnt ok and i should call police - i woulda done it, and woulda been out of the relationship a coupla years earlier. and its not cuz im so dumb - its that abuse is a deeply private and painful secret while its happening, talking of it is excruciatingly hard, so i did it once (been preparing for that talk for a few months tbh), got my answer, and shut down again.

    for you and your gf
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  8. #5
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    Thank you both so much for replying and sharing your personal experiences.

    I've been looking at a lot of information, articles, websites on this topic recently but I will definitely have at look at the pages that you have suggested.I think I am slowly starting to understand it more.

    Manya your point on "I totally hear how it makes little sense, that one would stay in an abusive situation instead of just leaving. thing is - you cant leave. its what makes it abuse. if one was free to go (or to fight back), it would be called "dating a jerk" instead". was pretty useful it helped to high light the difference between being with a jerk and being in an abusive relationship. It is hard to wrap your head around being an outsider looking in because you can't really relate to it at all. To us it seems as simple as "bad situation = leave". I knew there was move to it than that like where will you go, who can you stay with and I understand how much harder it must be if children are involved. I guess I never realised the extend of the problems that can occur if you try to leave.

    And thank you Jane for your advice on how to be supportive, again I guess people think their helping by trying to offer their opinions but really the best think to do is shut up and just listen.

    You have both given me some thing to think about and it has been a big help hearing other peoples experiences, opening my eyes a bit more to these situations. I'm glad both of you managed to leave your abusive partners, I thank you and wish you all the best

  9. #6
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    I just wanted to share a particular thing that ended up keeping me trapped in various abuses. Sometimes, if I tried to share, I was just told to “forgive” the person and things would get better, somehow, magically, cuz forgiveness was all the abuser needed. For most of these ppl - and how I had been taught - forgiving meant forgetting all the bad things that had been done to me, and giving the person endless chances; so that's what I did, forgot the previous harmful things - even trying to kill me - and went back to the abuse, because it wasn't really abuse any more if there was a clean slate. I was also told things like “Don't say such lies about these good people.” or “He/She is just doing their best.” etc. So that put the responsibility for how people were acting on my shoulders again, just like the abusers were doing. So I figured from this that all of the abuse was somehow my fault, and I deserved it. I'm out now, but am still trying to heal from all these lies and the brainwashing that I experienced for a few decades, as well as the blame and shame I got from others for the abuse I went through, in therapy.

    What really helps me is when people who care about me just listen, don't make judgements, don't question judgement calls, and don't probe and pry for details about what I went through, etc. I'm working through my emotional issues with my therapist. What I really need from those who love me, my family, friends, etc, is for them to care about me now, where I am, who I am now. I really don't want to be someone's project though. I don't need someone I love to “fix” me, because that's what the abusers were trying to do. They wanted me to be something other than who I am, and if someone comes along and makes me a “project” then that's the same dynamic. I tend to resist that dynamic with all that I am, and it makes me angry when someone looks at me like an object. So, it really helps me when my loved ones treat me like they'd treat anyone else in their life. They don't try to fix me, they invite me to activities they think I'd enjoy. They don't try to analyze my feelings and responses, they come over for a movie night. They don't try to pry details about the abuse I've gone through out of me, they listen when I have something exciting to share about my day. They don't treat me like some fragile glass that they're afraid will break, they treat me like the person they enjoy having in their life.

    I hope that your girlfriend has many people in her life so she can heal from what she went through.
    ~Tasha

    May you have peace, live long, and prosper.

    "On the starship Enterprise, no one is alone." ~Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in The Bonding, ST:TNG Season 3
    "Seize the time, Meribor-live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again." ~Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Kamin in The Inner Light, ST:TNG Season 5

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  11. #7
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    Thank you for your comment Tasha,

    Like I said earlier I've far from handled the information my fiancťe has told me about this perfectly, I've brought back lots of painful memories for her and hurt her in the process. But for the life of me I cant ever understand if some one told me they were being abused responding back with "don't say such lies about that person". If some one is saying some thing so serious would you not take it seriously until it had been proved otherwise.

    It seems part of the problem comes when victims of abuse finally get the courage to speak to some one about it, if the response they get back is negative and not supportive. Then it sets that person back months maybe even years before they can speak out to some one again. I think I may be guilty of doing such a thing with my fiancťe, while see was out of the relationship by the time she told me, any unsupportive or negative responses I gave back hampered her decision to speak about it in the future and set her even further back. So the best way to undo this sort of damage is whenever she chooses to speak to me about it again is just to listen to what she has to say, offer no judgement or any opinion just to listen to her?

  12. #8
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    I'm not sure what would be best for your fiance, but for me, it really helps when people don't look at me with alarm, horror, etc, and just listen instead. One of the things that has really helped me is to talk about the really serious "shocking" stuff with a trained professional and in support groups where others "get" things and usually aren't shocked. Seeing shock on someone's face has made it really hard for me to talk about things, because I feel like I did something horrible if the person I love is reacting to me in that manner, cuz it feels like a reaction to ME, not what I'm sharing. For me, talking about what I went through is very difficult, it's deeply embarrassing, it's very personal, and if I choose to discuss it with someone I'm close to, it means I have a lot of trust in that person, so when the reactions are ones of shock, anger, etc, it sets me back, like you said.

    I understand about being upset when something bad has happened to someone you love, but the reactions to what I've told people have sometimes really damaged my ability to trust that person. For example, my mom and dad (who helped me get out of my situation) didn't want to hear details, cuz they knew themselves well enough to know that they couldn't handle it, told me that themselves, and I respected that. It was cuz they hated to hear I'd gone through horrible things. But they never looked at me like I was an alien from another planet, or any other way that other people have, for the very reason that they set boundaries from the start, that they couldn't handle it. I'm very glad that they shared that they couldn't talk about details, cuz it made it possible for our relationship to stay strong. On the other hand, I have a friend who works as a social worker, sees quite a few things daily, and she is comfy with details. I don't share lots with her, just occasionally will share if something comes up in the course of our conversations, but when I do share, it still takes a huge amount of trust, even with this person I've known for 20 years now. And if she were to respond with "Wtf, that coulda never happened." yeah, it'll set me back some when I try to talk about what I went through, as well as wondering exactly how much I can trust this friend I've had for two decades. That's one of the reasons that I talk about the "serious" stuff with my therapist, cuz she's trained to handle even the shocking stuff without setting my healing back, and my loved ones are just there to be loved ones, instead of to help me process what I went through.

    I guess for me that's actually the distinction I make between loved ones and professionals - if I'm relying on a friend or other loved one to help me process things, I need to check myself, cuz loved ones don't have the training, etc, to help me process, so it's unfair of me to treat them like a paid professional. Yeah they care about me, but they can't help with my PTSD, social anxiety, and all the other psych issues I have resulting from abuse. My therapist can help me, though, cuz she's been trained. Sometimes it helps when I make that distinction with those around me, too, cuz lotsa my loved ones naturally wanna help me, so I remind them that I just wanna be treated as a loved one, not a project or a patient or anything else. I'm still a person, and I wanna do things with them that we've always done, etc. I'll work through my psych issues with my therapist, and if I happen to wake in the middle of the night from a nightmare, yeah, a glass of water is great. I might even need to talk about it a little bit, to ground that I'm not in that nightmare any more and am safe where I am, but that's the extent of what I find helpful.

    Hehe. Anyway, I've rambled for a loooooong time. I hope that some of that might be interesting/useful.
    ~Tasha

    May you have peace, live long, and prosper.

    "On the starship Enterprise, no one is alone." ~Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in The Bonding, ST:TNG Season 3
    "Seize the time, Meribor-live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again." ~Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Kamin in The Inner Light, ST:TNG Season 5

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  14. #9
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    Your not rambling Tasha I'm really greatful to hear some one else's experience and to help me understand better.

    I think I'm guilty of once I found out wanting to try and fix it but like you said I'm not a trained profession so I didn't know what I could do to help, which probably made my feeling of being useless even worst. I should have just like you suggested listen and lent a supportive shoulder been there as a loved one.

    I never really thought of my fiancťe as a project to fix, When we met she was pretty well adjusted most of the time and it seemed like she had moved on from that terrible time in her past. I think maybe she was some of the time just pushing it down and not thinking about it. Suggesting that she speak to other people who have been there or a therapist who is trained and knows how to react could be useful to her.

    It's terrible to think that so many people have been in these situation, it seems to be a lot more of a common thing than I ever realised.

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    I hear ya. Lotsa ppl either wanted to fix things, or they wanted to ask me why I didn't do whatever so that I got out. I realized that it's hard for people who haven't had their autonomy taken away to understand the complications that arise when you're not even sure you're being abused. I wasn't sure that what was happening to me was wrong. I was told that it was how things were supposed to be, a couple ppl later on said that it was for my own good, one person even said that sexually assaulting me was because they wanted to "heal" me. The abuse had twisted the world in such a way that I didn't realize these things were wrong. I didn't have an idea how to get out of them, went to people for help, who then told me not to tell lies, that people were only doing their best, that I should forgive those abusers for "mistakes" they made, etc. What was really confusing to me was trying to figure out what was my responsibility and what was the responsibility of other people. That's why I mentioned how helpful it was for me to have professionals with whom I could discuss the trauma I've gone through, cuz whenever I've had loved ones try to act as a therapist or try to fix me, it hasn't ended well. I've actually ended up in the same relationship dynamic as I did while in the abuse. Abuse seriously messed with the way I understand and see the world, the way I relate to others, etc. I'm still working on those things, but therapy and support groups have really helped me with those issues, and my loved ones treating me as they treat anyone else has really helped me understand healthy relationship dynamics, through trial and error, and without the abuse factor.

    My mom and dad wished they could turn back the clock so that I didn't go through abuse, but that wasn't their main way of interacting with me. And they only expressed that desire to me a couple of times. I think they stopped sharing it with me cuz they saw in my reaction that I felt guilty for sharing with them, that now I've poisoned their lives with the bad thing I went through. That's how it felt, really - that I'd poisoned their lives by my existence in it. That prolly doesn't sound rational, but it was how I felt at the time, cuz during the abuse I had been told lotsa lies about who I was as a person, how awful it was for me to be in the lives of the abusers, etc, so my worth was connected to how other people reacted to me. To some extent, it still is, but that's something I'm working on with my therapist, too - where my responsibilities as a person end and where others begin. Just it's a really hard thing cuz abuse messes with these boundaries. I didn't feel like a person, wasn't treated like a valid person during the abuse. Part of what my abusers did was to break down any scrap of identity, self worth, and self esteem that I had, because then it made me more compliant, more confused, etc. Basically, it made it easier for the abusers to hurt and control me. It was a complicated relationship, and prolly difficult for outsiders to understand the dynamics. I mean, I can still justify what happened to me, using the reasons the abusers gave. My therapist says that's part of Stockholm Syndrome. I guess she's right. It's just something I'm working through with her, as I process the trauma I went through.
    ~Tasha

    May you have peace, live long, and prosper.

    "On the starship Enterprise, no one is alone." ~Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in The Bonding, ST:TNG Season 3
    "Seize the time, Meribor-live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again." ~Capt. Jean-Luc Picard as Kamin in The Inner Light, ST:TNG Season 5

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