How you can help a friend who is a victim of domestic violence
You may be called on by a friend or loved one who needs your support. Here is one survivor's story and how she's using her experience to help others break free from abuse.
I was a single mom of three when I met by abuser. I didn’t grow up in an abusive home. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I grew up in a home where love, compassion, and laughter was a part of our everyday lives. We often took in young people who were broken and just needed some stability. But domestic abuse knows no boundaries–it can affect women and men of all backgrounds.
When I met my abuser, I was going through an ugly divorce. I thought I was getting into a healthier relationship. My children were still small—2, 3, and 8 years old—so the fact that another man was willing to be involved in my life and take on the responsibility of children was very meaningful to me.
When the fighting began, what started as yelling and screaming quickly turned into physical abuse. I will never forget the first time he took a beer can and smashed it against my face. He begged me not to call the police. His abusive behavior only got worse, but I fought back. In our state, if the police arrive and both parties show signs of cuts, both are arrested. The second time this happened, I learned that child protective services was going to take away my kids if I didn’t leave my abuser.
I decided right then that enough is enough! Even though I would surely lose my home, it didn’t matter. I would be homeless if it meant that me and my children were safe.
Thankfully because I did grow up in such a loving home, my parents took me and my kids in and I started to re-build my life. Abuse is not only physical—it is emotional and financial. My finances were in such a mess because I paid for most of the expenses and because I always wanted to be pleasing, I would over extend my finances and provided above and beyond my means. I’m proud to say that today we live in a home that I have managed to pay for on my own for the last 15 years!
I no longer have to live with an abuser or feel ashamed for being a victim of domestic violence. Today, I am an advocate for other survivors, speaking on the subject when asked and always there to lend an ear to someone who is facing a challenge. My children still carry this pain with them as adults. We as parents don’t realize the trauma this causes our kids. They, too, need to go through the healing process.
There are ways we can all be advocates for survivors of domestic violence.
I encourage you to lend your ear to someone who is living with an abuser. The shame of even admitting that they have been hit or have been abused can be overbearing; it’s easier to deal with life if you don’t have to admit the most painful parts of it. Listening to a friend and not judging her is extremely helpful.
I encourage you to open your home to someone who needs it. Sometimes a victim feels that they have been shut out, especially by those who judge and think it is just so easy to get up and leave.
I encourage you to assure a child that they don’t have to keep their abuse a secret. If they too are being abused, it is OK to tell an adult. If children are witnessing trauma in their homes, they may think it is a normal thing to go through.
Lastly, I encourage you to be understanding. You can’t make someone leave a relationship. You can’t give ultimatums. A person has to be ready to leave a relationship and be prepared to face the consequences. If not, they will just end up going back to the abuser. I know, I went back twice after he swore he had changed and it would never happen again.
I’m sharing my story with you to empower you as an advocate. One day you may need to be there for someone who feels like there is no hope or no way out. You may need to be the one to lean on or the one who helps a friend find the support she needs.
Learn the signs of financial abuse at AllstateFoundation.org/EndFinancialAbuse.
Find a domestic violence shelter in your area at www.domesticshelters.org.
If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.
Lisa is a board member for Project Understanding where she believes in their philosophy of a hand up and not a hand out. Lisa was very instrumental in creating the first “purple room” at the City Center Transitional Living where a survivor of domestic violence and their family is able to find a safe place they can now call home. She was recently awarded the founder of the Domestic Violence Event and currently serves as Vice President.
Lisa’s community of Ventura recently awarded her with a Hero Amongst Award for making a difference in her community and thanking her for all she does.