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Supporting a Friend

Tue, 04/16/2013 - 14:45 -- kdudley

The video below is titled "A Photo a Day of the Worst Year of My Life." Chances are you've come across it at some point in one of your social media feeds as it has had over 4.7 million viewers in the past month.

Photo a day challenges have become popular recently, but this one is different from the quirky photos of where you eat lunch or the progression of facial hair over the year. It chronicles a year of a dating violence survivor. 

While there are still some questions surrounding whether the video is of an actual dating violence survivor or a public service announcement, it does a good job showing the changes that take place in a person over time as abuse escalates. 

Notice when the video begins, the young woman not only looks happy, but the pictures are taken in various locations. As it goes on more and more of the photos are being taken inside her house, her clothing begins to change and we see noticeable differences in her facial expressions, signs that something is happening even if we weren't able to see the bruises.  

[Trigger Warning: Images depicting dating violence]

Abusive relationships are about power and control. Often the partner exhibiting abusive behavior will work to isolate the other person from friends or family or dictate what they do in order to maintain control. 

If you begin to notice changes in your friend--doesn't go out as much, stops caring about things they were once passionate about--it could be a sign of an abusive realtionship. While it may be hard to watch your friend suffer an abusive relationship, it's important you offer support. Giving support doesn't mean you have to take on all of your friend’s needs by yourself, but there are small ways you can give them the strength they need to get back on their feet.

Helpline advocate Nicole offers advice on how to support a friend:

Patience is a Virtue

It is unrealistic for you to expect your friend to immediately pack up and leave their abusive situation, especially if they have experienced isolation. Your friend probably has few allies and resources are often limited depending on their access to transportation, money, internet or phone use. It may take a while before they are ready to come to you with their situation and they may not come out and reveal their needs. Being a consistent positive supporter of them aside from their abusive situation can help them feel more comfortable coming to you when it’s time.<

Document Everything

A small, but invaluable, way that you can help a friend is by keeping track of any signs your friend shows of being abused. In a daily journal, record when your friend comes to work with bruises or when she reveals experiencing an abusive act at the hand of her partner. This documentation can be used later as evidence in court or to show law enforcement.

Just Between Us

No matter how concerned you are or angry you become, it's not ok talk to the abuser. Being a bystander to abuse can be frustrating because you may begin to develop secondhand trauma or feelings of wanting to seek revenge. It is important that you not take on solving the problems yourself by interfering with the abuse or coming into contact with the abuser. Your relationship with your friend should remain as secret as possible to be sure that your friend is not further cut off from communicating with you or put into more danger for reaching out for help.

Make a Plan to Be Safe

Your friend is probably overwhelmed with feeling helpless in their situation. As you sort out their needs, you can help them create a safety plan to better protect themselves. This will look different depending on the specific needs of your friend, but might include having a code word they can text you in case of emergency, a secret key to your home or keeping a packed bag of important items so that if they need to leave, they don’t have to scramble to pack things first.

Take Care of Yourself

Remember that you cannot provide the best support for someone else if you are not properly taking care of yourself. There is nothing wrong with stepping away or taking a break from your friend’s situation without cutting them off. If you become too overwhelmed or feel helpless, chat, text or call us and an advocate can help you through it.

 
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