October is #DomesticViolenceAwarenessMonth.
I left an abuser nearly 2 years ago with the help of friends & today people regularly ask me what they can do if they know or suspect that someone is in an abusive relationship.
Here are some tips — as based on personal experience.
Don't try to shame someone into leaving
A person in an abusive relationship is already being shamed. Shame plays a part in making them stay
"Look what you made me do" = the unofficial slogan of abusers. The victim is held responsible for the abuse. Don't make it worse for them.
Do affirm the victim's positive sense of self
Abusers whittle away our confidence and disorient us as to make us complicit in our own suffering
It's important for a victim to know that someone cares about them & *respects* them. It helps them see things from a different angle.
Don't expect anyone to be immediately overjoyed at the idea of being rescued
This is not a fairy tale. You're not scaling Rapunzel's tower
Abuse is humiliating. Realizing that someone else has noticed it can be especially humiliating. Expect a victim to be defensive & push back
Do work on planting seeds
Ideas percolate through our subconscious, and the subconscious of an abuse victim is a dark & chaotic place
"No one deserves this." "This will keep happening." I heard the words, but acceptance took a while. I later learned that this is normal
Don't be surprised if you see victim & abuser having good times
Abuse is cyclical. Abusers "make up" for bad behavior. It further disorients their victims & encourages them to stay
In fact, trauma bonding is so powerful that victims can cling desperately to the good times.
Do leave the door open if initially rebuffed — but only if you are able
Leaving is a huge step. Knowing that you can count on someone when you decide to leave can make a big difference.
But once again, this is no fairy tale. Offer help if you *know* you can follow through.
Don't automatically trust a victim's inner circle
Abusers usually have enablers/passive accomplices. Even immediate family members can enable an abuser
In fact, strained/difficult relationships with family members can warp our view of ourselves, making us easy prey for abusers
Do keep in mind that leaving is usually the most dangerous part
Abuse is always about control. An abuser who feels they are losing control can become murderously violent
Have a plan B. Do your research. Don't give away locations. Know where to turn to if things get ugly.
Another thing to understand: Abusers are not monsters. They're people.
We rely on monster tropes. This makes it harder to leave.
"I know you have feelings for him. But he will do it again" = one of the most helpful things I've ever heard.
I hope you find it helpful too <3
Oh. OH. Don't be shocked if victim misses abuser.
An overlooked feature of abusive relationships is how the abuser becomes your whole world. You get used to the control.
So when you first leave, it can be scary and distressing!
Remind them — these feelings will pass.
Don't invalidate such feelings (after all, they've already had their feelings invalidated by their abuser).
"I know you're hurting. It will pass. I know you feel lost. It won't last forever. You will feel stronger by the end of this."
It works. Remember that & good luck.
P.S. You’re not helping someone because you want a medal...Right?
We help each other because it’s the right thing to do. That is all.
I try to pass on the help I was given. It’s why I remain so vocal about what happened to me.
Again, if you’ve read this far — I wish you luck
You can follow @NataliaAntonova.
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