Updated: Jul 5, 2020
MJ: For all of the trauma's that might befall a woman who is living with an abusive man, what advice do you give to the male or female friend who sees it happening but doesn't know how to approach the woman? Who should approach the man and how? Trust me when I say, the woman may be in denial or in a constant state of hope that things will change...that HE will change. Neither the man nor woman may appreciate the friend and yet...one question could be all it takes to get them thinking. For myself, my daughter asked me on the phone, "Mom, are you afraid of him?" It was the gently planted seed that jarred me into seeing the reality of how I was living. The slow answer was a quiet, self-assessing, "Yes. I think I am."
Percell: This is huge. Whenever there is a problem with a friend or loved one, we all seem to want to offer advice, opinions, and solutions under the heading of 'well-intentioned help'. Of course, the mistake with this is that we are usually unqualified to do so. Why we feel that we have the right answers for everyone else's problems is a very perplexing enigma to me. There are two areas to consider here; 1) the issue of relationship to the couple, and, 2) the issue of the malfeasance / abuse. The onlooker should firstly consider four things; I call it "When You Should Be A PEST: P-atience, E-mpathy, S-upport, T-actfulness. Patient: Develop patience for yourself and for the abused. Learn about the perceived problem and situation. An onlooker should educate themselves on abuse, its types, causes, symptoms, etc. Further, look into possible help-lines (coaches, counselors, clinics, churches, books). Do not rush in to offer opinion, advice, or solutions. After breaching the subject, have patience with the abused. Many abuse victims ignore their realities, and delay the painful processes of moving forward. Some pretend to be truly happy, and will even become upset with someone who is trying to help. When they finally decide to face the truth, it can be painful and overwhelming. Some might need more time than you would expect (the way you handle situations might be different or even quicker).
Empathetic: This is not a time for the onlooker's opinions or advice. Talk with the victim and truly listen; seek to understand what is going on inside of her. An emotional cruelty victim will not "snap out of it" because you tell them to; they have to come to the understanding on their own. In your example, it was something that your daughter said that 'snapped' within you. But it was something that she said after watching the situation and listening to you, and developing that understanding within herself.
Supportive: Be a supporter -- not a fixer. Patience and empathy will inevitably create a supportive atmosphere for the victim. A comfortable environment for a victim to face the problem can be created by simply your being there...not trying to tell them what to do or make them do what you think is best. Your daughter did not tell you anything; she asked you a question, and allowed you to answer it for yourself. Perfect! Much of the reason for denial comes from fear of something new, and the truth is that the only person who can get a victim out of denial is themselves.
Tactful: Again, being a friend is not about you; it is about the abused. They do not need you to be Be All - Fix All to their problems. Fight the urge to piously spout your opinions and fixes even if you believe that you have studied the subject thoroughly and have it well in hand. Ask questions rather than give advice. The legal system is built on the practice of attorneys cleverly asking questions and allowing the persons on the stand to lead themselves where the attorney wants them to go in the first place. I have used the example that a good friend will rush in and tell you that your husband is having an affair, and offer you a place to stay when you confront him. But a best friend will allow [even if assist] you to find out, and then be there for you as you decide what to do.