Nancy and Marcie have been best friends since college. The turmoil of college bonded them as they believed that once they were in careers, married, and had kids, life would become easier. While it was for Marcie, Nancy’s life became a nightmare. It took a while for Marcie to realize what was going on with Nancy. After Nancy graduated from college, she secured a good job and purchased her first home. She was intelligent, beautiful, talented, and resourceful. So when she met John, who on the surface seemed to match her characteristics, Marcie was thrilled and supportive.
But red flags began to appear within the first few years of Nancy and John’s marriage. Nancy would bail out of lunches with Marcie at the last minute. When they did meet, she claimed that her black eye was due to an encounter with her dog. She missed family and other social gatherings. She neglected her friendship with Marcie. Her house was a mess. And she had gotten written up at work, something that never happened before. It seemed like the longer the marriage continued, the worse Marcie got physically and emotionally.
Marcie’s attempts to confront Nancy and John only caused even more distance. Confused and frustrated, Marcie reached out for help from a counselor. After describing the problem, the counselor explained that Nancy might be in an abusive relationship. Marcie’s first instinct was to beat the tar out of John, but after realizing that this would only create more problems and distance, she was open to other suggestions.
- Be available. In the past, Marcie didn’t like getting phone calls after 10 pm., it seemed the older she got the more she valued her sleep But given the circumstances, she changed her position and told Nancy that she was available 24/7. Nancy tested this out a couple of times and Marcie responded well instead of being cranky.
- Don’t judge. Even intelligent, beautiful, talented, and resourceful people can fall into an abusive relationship. This is not a sign of weakness. John was clever enough to surround his abuse with praise and support for Marcie especially in front of other people. For Marcie, this was very confusing and unfortunately gave her hope that he would change.
- Don’t ask why. While in the middle of an abusive relationship, this is not the time for reflection and understanding as to how a person got here. Rather, all energy needs to be placed on finding a way out of the situation. Marcie’s first instinct was to wonder why this was happening to Nancy. But that only isolated Nancy as even she was afraid of the true answer. Instead, Marcie had to learn to put her curiosity aside for the sake of Nancy’s sanity.
- Agree as much as possible. The last thing a victim need is to be fighting with others outside of the abusive relationship. When Marcie first discovered that Nancy was being physically abused, she angrily confronted her. This only pushed Nancy further away. While it is never appropriate to agree with the abusive behavior, finding other things to agree on will help the victim feel stable.
- Provide secret resources. Marcie opened a bank account in her name and Nancy’s name so she could put funds in it for Nancy to use as needed. Marcie also introduced Nancy to her counselor and told her that she could set an appointment anytime and she would pay for it. These two resources gave Nancy hope that she get out of the relationship with John alive.
- Be encouraging. Abusive people tear their victims to shreds, then they talk about how great the victim is, and then treat them badly. John did this push-pull tactic very effectively which generated confusion in Nancy. The best counteract is to be consistently and persistently encouraging. Even when Marcie was upset, she did her best to continue to encourage Nancy.
- Be patient. All too often victims leave their abuser and then return back and leave again. Being patient during this time is very difficult but necessary to show unconditional support and love for the victim. When Nancy would leave, Marcie would get her hopes that this time she would be done for good. So when Nancy returned, Marcie would become impatient. By showing patience, Marcie demonstrated a stark contrast between her behavior and John’s.
- Formulate secret plans. Part of helping a victim of domestic abuse is to give them a way out. Marcie helped Nancy stash a suitcase of toiletries and some clothing for whenever she decided to leave. They had secret texting codes, another safe friend to contact, and even a safe place to stay in advance of any departure.
- Be willing to listen. Nancy often felt very isolated and judged by others. She felt like a bird in a cage where everyone is watching her but she has no privacy or way out of the situation. Listening to Nancy without judgment was difficult for Marcie but this is what she needed the most. Marcie had to learn to put her feelings aside in order to help Nancy.
- Know the laws. In every country and state, there are laws about domestic violence. Marcie did her research and found out the procedure for pressing charges, filing a restraining order, and even the laws surrounding stalking charges. She had all the information available for Nancy when she needed it and willingly went to attorney and police meetings with Nancy.
- Provide a safe place. Marcie realized that her house was not a safe place for Nancy because John would easily find her there. Instead, she worked out an arrangement for Nancy to stay with a distant aunt of Marcie’s when she needed to getaway. Having shelter outside of town gave Nancy some peace of mind and a place to escape from the chaos.
- Support the escape. This is more than financially supporting the victim, it also entails mentally and emotionally supporting the victim. In order for Nancy to finally make the choice to leave, she needed to have mental and emotional support from Marcie and others. Once she did, she was able to finally escape the abuse.
Sadly, it took a couple of years for Nancy to finally leave John for good but when she did, she knew that Marcie would be 100% on her side. Marcie’s determination not to give up on Nancy paid off and she is doing well today as a result.