Atlanta — The first rule is to listen without judgment. “Would you like for me to give you advice, or would you like for me just to be a listening ear?” is a common phrase that my friends and I practice, no matter what the situation. Because many abuse survivors may feel humiliated or doubtful of themselves, creating a safe space allows them to feel heard and understood. When you allow someone to speak their feelings and experiences without interjecting, criticizing or placing blame.
In my previous article, “Are You or a Friend in a Toxic Relationship? Distinguishing the Signs.” I mentioned that survivors tend to justify why their partner behaved that way. Let them know that you believe them and that the abuse is not their fault.
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While writing this guide, I couldn’t help but think about the song “Girl” by Destiny's Child. In the hit song, a group of friends notice that one of them has not been acting like her usual self since she’s been in a relationship. And speaking of the girl group, singer/actress Kelly Rowland shared the story of her abusive relationship with so much grace in her song, “Dirty Laundry.” Here are some suggestions on how to support yourself or a friend in such a situation.
Encourage professional help by contacting local domestic violence hotlines or organizations for guidance. No one wants to see their friend go through a tough time, so considering their decisions and timing is an effective method for showing your help.
As soon as the individual expresses their need to end the relationship, assist in creating a safety plan. Make plans for getting away safely, gathering necessities, and locating a safe location. This strategy should be customized for each person's particular circumstances. Do they have children? Do they live with their abusive partner? Do they share a vehicle? Make sure you consider these scenarios in the exit plan.
Recommend your loved one to engage in activities that help with relaxation, relieve stress, and self-care to remind them to take care of their physical and mental health. Never forget that you may experience emotional difficulties if you choose to support someone who is in an abusive relationship. Never be afraid to ask friends, family, or experts for assistance if you need it to get through this trying time.
No matter what, never blame the victim of an abusive relationship. If you are a friend of someone who is a victim, please be patient. I thank God for my friends every day for never giving up on me. No matter how many times I've sobbed to them, screamed, broke down and told them, "F them! I'll never go back. I hate them." and turned around, and went right back to my abuser. My brothers and sisters have been by my side the entire way through. Community is so important.
Learn more about the dynamics of abusive relationships, the effects of abuse on survivors, and the available resources by visiting the domestic violence hotline or calling 800-799-7233.
Jeydah Jenkins (she/her) is from Newark, NJ, but is an Atlanta-based journalist who covers the arts and culture. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok: @JeydahFromJersey.
Edited by Nykeya Woods