Often it is the person closest to the abused individual that becomes vocal about the existence of an abusive relationship. This may be mother, father, sister, brother or best friend. What becomes most difficult for these bystanders is helping their loved one acknowledge the abuse as they see it.
How do you help your daughter, sister or friend awaken to their abusive relationship? Over the years in working with families, I’m aware that their very efforts to accomplish this mission often backfire and at best do nothing.
The following five things are most frequently done and are the top five things to actually avoid:
1) Don’t tell her that she MUST leave the abusive partner, as this can ignite a parent-child power struggle (unless her life is in eminent, immediate danger). Rather guide her to tell herself that leaving is a must when there is domestic violence in one’s relationship. Trust that she is in the best position to know if and when to leave the relationship.
2) Don’t tell her that you know she has the "right" answers. The abused person is conditioned to believe they have no answers and if they stumbled upon one, it’s probably not correct anyway. Instead, help her find her own answers. Help her hear her own inner voice.
3) Don’t assume she won’t know how you really feel about what she is doing by her being in an abusive relationship. She can’t read your thoughts, but she can read the emotional counterpart of your thinking. She’s an expert at that. It’s one of her survival mechanisms at home. Further, she will seek to regulate your thoughts-another survival mechanism she has perfected.
4) Don’t focus exclusively on the punch she received or some equivalent or greater physical assault. While this is extremely important, it is not the point of focus from which her most compelling and action-inspiring reflection occurs. Rather focus on the subtle.
5) Don’t confront her partner while he has access to your daughter.Any cavalier efforts on your part may indeed inflame matters in your absence. Confrontations like this more often that not result in an escalation in intimate partner violence.
If you need help assisting your daughter, or sister, in awakening to the circumstances of domestic abuse as you perceive or suspect, seek professional guidance before attempting any of the methods described above. This will insure your moving things in the direction you believe to be in the interest of your loved one.