This week’s post comes to you with much heartache. I cried while writing it. I cried while reading it to my husband. My sister cried when proofing it. But it is not just my story to tell. And it is not my place to make it public. I am sometimes too candid, too open. It was an experience that I find still deeply troubles me. When you have a loved one caught in an abusive relationship, that loved one is not the only victim. That loved one’s abuser has affected your life too. For years I watched my sister give in to the oppression of her abuser. The emptiness in her eyes, the ghost of a weary warrior, haunted me. I wanted her back. I wanted her happy again so we could all be happy again.
You have to resist the instinct to “rescue” your friend from her situation. In order for her to gain freedom, she must have the freedom to choose to leave.
. . . she is trapped and she is burning, but she stays because it is her home and she cannot leave.
You may want to shake her and scream at her, “Why do you stay?! He is awful to you! How can you not see?!” You may want to simply order her to do as you say, “I don’t care what you say, you’re coming with me, I’m getting you out of here.” All of these actions will only drive her further away from you and she will not feel comfortable coming to you for help in the future. The best help you can give is to offer your support. Let her know that you are there when she needs you and that you will never judge her. Offer her specific help, like money or transportation or a place to stay. Offer her anything that will enable her to leave and do not demand anything in exchange. For further help on this matter, read this article and know that there is hope for your friend.
Helping a loved one in an abusive relationship is one of the hardest and most heartbreaking things you could ever do. Imagine a friend or family member caught in a burning house. The entire structure is crumbling around her, everything is engulfed in flames. You cry out to her, pointing out a clear path, beckoning her to a spot of safety. But she remains, claiming the house is fine. She can put out the fire. She has it under control. But you see the flames begin to lick her legs, she is trapped and she is burning, but she stays because it is her home and she cannot leave.
Do not give up hope. Be there for her. Be always ready to help her once she escapes the blaze.
We have received numerous comments from our readers in the blogosphere and our readers on Facebook, commending us for our courage and our bravery in sharing our personal experiences in an effort to raise awareness. And I don’t think I fully understood that compliment until now. With every past experience that we write, we are reliving that moment of our history. And sometimes we worry about being too offensive. Part of me feels like we are still cowering under the control of our past abusers. Part of me wishes all of our readers were strangers, then what would it matter? But the truth is . . . some parts of our past need to remain private for just a little longer. Perhaps one day we will share my first draft of this post. I don’t know.