Abusive Relationships


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Even though I like to keep things light here, this one's pretty serious.

A co-worker of mine is in an abusive relationship. I just realized it tonight, and it's pretty serious. She's only been working with me for about a month, though we aren't always on the same shift.

I've already noticed bruises on her face and arms. The matter gets more serious, however because she's informed me that her husband thinks we're intimately associated.

Not only is that 100% false, the very thought has never occured to me. She's great to work with, and it makes me frustrated because I want to be able to help her with this situation, but at the same time, I don't dare get too involved lest the husband sees something that he interprets as confirmation of his suspicions.

I've already got the information on my cell for the local women's shelter in case she needs it (I've already prayed that it won't come to that...but real life carries on...).

I guess I'm wondering what exactly the next step should be, or if I should just distance myself for now and hope things cool off for her.

In a related matter....what's up with spousal abuse anyway? I know it's come up here before, but seriously...who in their right mind thinks that it's the best way to treat someone they claim to love?

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I've already got the information on my cell for the local women's shelter in case she needs it (I've already prayed that it won't come to that...but real life carries on...).

Why wouldn't it "come to that," and why hasn't it "come to that," yet, when you (two breaths earlier) stated this?:

I've already noticed bruises on her face and arms.

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It's already come to the point of her needing the information about the women's shelter. You should also be careful since abusive spouses can be dangerous if they think someone is "intimately associated" with the victim. He could also tell her to quit working, which is a form of financial abuse, and a way to further isolate her from her support system.

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I wanted to post earlier but ran out of time :/

First. You have good intentions but be very careful how you become involved in this. Being a support ally of the opposite gender will be very threatening to her husband, which, could make things worse for her. If she is forced to quit her job because her husband suspects you two are having a relationship—you won't be much good as a support ally to her once she's gone. So I would suggest you tell her as a "concerned coworker", that she call and or contact the Women's Crisis Centre while she's at work. Because if her marriage is anything like my previous relationship—she won't get a chance to make that important call for help at home with her abuser around.

Second. You can't save her. Ultimately it will have to be HER decision to go through with this. It isn't uncommon for a victim to reach out for help but when the police or any other intervention arrive—they say they're perfectly fine and there's no problem :[ I don't know what kind of rapport you have with this woman but if she trusts you at all, strongly encourage her to devise a "getaway plan", where she can go to seek refuge (aka. get in contact with a Crisis Centre). She could do this when she's on her way to work or at work. Your employer is sure to be understanding of crisis emergencies.

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I'm going to give the info to her in an hour or so today. I don't work until after her shift, but I can certainly go give it to her now.

I don't know how common the abuse is, or maybe the word is frequent...anyway she laughed when she told me he thought she was cheating on him with me, and her tone and body language at the time told me she didn't take his concern too seriously...so we joked about it all shift. She did tell me "Thank you for making me laugh." Which made me very happy...I love cheering people up when they need it.

All the same, regardless of how serious the situation is, she has no need to remain a part of it. Thanks for the comments. There's a part of me that wants to go all Chuck Norris on the guy, even though I've never been in a fight in my life.

Since that's never a legitimate option in my eyes, treading carefully and being supportive are the needs of the moment.

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I'm going to throw a little wrench here. Hopefully, I'm wrong, but it's something to think about...

It could be that the girl is using you as an "escape". Even though you both joke about it, there might seriously be something she is hoping for in your relationship. A girl in an abusive relationship with a friendly co-worker... she's going to gravitate, I'm fairly certain.

Friendship is good. But, keep it professional and supportive. This is not something you have the luxury to joke about.

What did she tell you about her bruises?

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As everyone else has stated, I would advice you to take extreme care in how you approach this. You don't want to deal with the guilty conscience should something happen to her because you got too involved.

That being said, if the abuse is clear (like her bruises), then she definitely needs help. Understand that she may not realize the severity of her situation and how very important getting that help is. She will downplay what is happening to her, cover it up, and avoid the subject. In her own mind, she probably hasn't even connected the dots that what she is going through is abuse, or if she has, she is either in denial or too scared to do anything.

Giving her the womans shelter information at work is a wonderful idea. Let us know how that goes, and how she responds to it. Doing everything you can to help in a situation as tender as this can be very tricky, because you don't want to do anything that will cut her off from further help and you want her to trust you so she can come to you when she realizes that help is needed.

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As far as her 'playing' me, I don't get the sense of that at all. Just yesterday, she said the two of them are doing much better, and that she's still very much in love with him. If she is preparing for an 'escape' I don't think the time is right just yet in her mind. I've backed off the issue a little since I gave her the info.

I said "I don't know if this is right or not, but I'm just worried for your safety. I hope I'm wrong, but if not, this information will help you." She thanked me sincerely, and put the card in her pocket. (I wrote it down on a generic fill-in-the-blank business card) She did tell me he 'used to' be pretty bad, but that the entire episode of his assumption was rooted in the fact that his first wife cheated on him for years before he found out.

If he's a little touchy after that, I can understand his concern. If that's all that's going on, then everyone should be fine. However, the fact of the bruises....she blamed them on falling down the stairs, and she had a new one on her chin...I really have my doubts.

I'm praying about this too. I have absolutely zero respect for anyone who justifies controlling another person through abuse. If that someone is sincerely trying to change, that's different, but I just don't have a clear sense of what needs to be done.

I'm taking it carefully, hoping the spirit will prompt me when I do need to act. In the meantime, I'm keeping my eyes and ears open. She knows where I stand, there are no allusions of us 'hooking up' at all, and we've discussed it specifically. I'm concerned for a friend and a coworker, and will help when asked.

For now that's all to report. Thanks for the advice, solid points, and support.

All the best, with respect


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Here's a solid point. She's in denial.

But I would say there's not much else you can do, especially since she isn't acknowledging and isn't willing to take further steps in preventing how her husband abuses her.

I don't know if you're married but from a wife's perspective, I'd be very concerned about my husband getting involved in this kind of unfortunate situation any deeper than providing the victim with Crisis Centre information. It seems you have decent rapport with your coworker, if at all possible, I would see if there's another woman (preferably someone at the Crisis Centre) that can be her support-ally and confidante. These places do have support groups of survivors of domestic violence and I would bet that these women are the best option as a pillar of support for someone like your coworker.

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For the record, I'm a year divorced, but your point is well noted. I'm just not sure of anyone else who takes her seriously enough at work to care. They all see the same things I'm seeing, but none of them seem to respect her at all...they all look down on her, and it's blatantly obvious based upon the way they talk about her behind her back.

Still, your point about denial is right, and I agree that observing is all I can do for now; well, that and continue the friendship we have.

As far as linking her to someone at the crisis center....I don't think her denial would let that work well. I'd also be afraid of pushing her to something she's not ready for.

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There's often a pattern that develops in domestic violence situations. It's not uncommon for people in a violent relationship to still love the perpatrator. After all, he didn't start out abusive. That came later.

Often, there are times of relative peace. The perpetrator is nice again, apologetic, promises to never do it again. The woman feels something here- maybe she thinks he'll change, maybe she still loves him, etc. Then, tension starts to build. Eventually, there's another incidence of violence. Then, he apologizes and it starts again. That's a simplified version to a complex problem.

There are reasons women can't leave:

1. Financial- no resources

2. Fear

3. Children- he threatens that he will get custody and she'll "never see them again" Or she doesn't know how she'll take care of them if she leaves. Or he works to turn the kids against her.

4. Love

5. No place to go

6. She doesn't recognize it as abuse

7. religious beliefs

8. No where to go

9 No job skills

10. pets- can't take them with her to a shelter. The abuser threatens to kill them or abuses them too. Or kills the animals.

11. He threatens friends and family members

12. She's just too scared to leave

13. She blames herself

14. She thinks she can "fix" the relationship

Those are only some I have heard while working with women. There are others.

Utimately, domestic violence is about power and control. He manipulates her and her life. There are elements of physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, mental, and often sexual abuse in the relationship. She often is not allowed to work. He checks her phone records, her internet cache, follows her. He can come over as "Mr. Nice Guy" to her coworkers, family, friends, and associates. They have a hard time believing in the abuse. Sometimes, though, he threatens them, too. And her perspective allies are afraid and back away. Sometimes, he doesn't allow any contact with anyone. He makes it difficult for her to associate with anyone and eventually she no longer has the emotional energy to try. Or she's just too afraid.

Here are a couple of good links:

This is for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. It will bring up a warning and escape option talking about computer tracking. That is for the safety of women and does not mean there's a virus or anything: National Domestic Violence Hotline

This link has educational information and resources: Introduction - Domestic Violence

Part of what you can do to help is be informed. If you can find a way to gently ask her about her injuries, do it. She may not tell you the truth but she may start to recognize you as a "safe person" who might be willing to help. "I noticed you have some bruises. I'm a bit worried. What happened?" Or words to that effect.

I hope she finds her way to safety. Be careful yourself, too.

Edited by ferretrunner
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It is the worst knowing a friend is being abused but not being able to do anything about it. A friend of mine was abused and her husband used that threat, "If you divorce me, I'll make sure you'll never see our son again" and she believed it. Because he was hanging her disorder over her head, saying that would be enough reason to keep their son away from her, she believed him and became hopeless. It was either stay in the relationship and be with her son or divorce and risk losing him. When she thought he was going to dump her, she showed photos to the police thinking she was just protecting herself from having her son taken away and didn't think the police would arrest him because it happened a couple weeks before that. No, they arrested him, which left her in financial trouble because he couldn't continue his practice, so the next time it happened, she didn't call the police. I stepped way back because if she confided in me that it was happening and was choosing not to call the police, I couldn't take it.

They are getting divorced now, but the custody battle is ugly and people can't believe he did those things. I saw the pictures and police report and it was really sad. :(

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Ripple, I don't have anything to add to the advice and information everyone has given you, as it is all good. But I did want to say that I think you are a wonderful friend to this woman, and your kindness toward her touches me.

You've seen first-hand how people treat women who are in abusive relationships. ferretrunner gave an excellent list of why women can't, and/or won't, leave an abusive marriage, but most people aren't aware of these things, and thus judge an abused wife harshly because they think she can just get up and leave anytime she wants.

The fact that you do respect her, despite her choosing, for now, to live in an abusive marriage, speaks volumes about your character. I wish all women in similar situations had a friend like you, because, the fact is, women in abusive marriages rarely have any friends of their own.

I know that when I was a child, my mother was terrified to leave my father, and part of this terror was due to the fact that she had no idea where to take her four children that would be safe. She had no money, one friend to speak of who didn't want to get involved, and no family nearby. This was before shelters were created, but if they had existed then, I think it would have been a huge relief to my mother to know there was a safe place to go.

You've given that gift to your friend. When the day comes that her eyes open, she'll be terrified to leave, but it won't be exacerated by her not knowing where to go, thanks to you.

Most importantly, you've given her the gift of not being in denial, and caring about her enough to act on that. You've shown her that her bruises are not fooling you, and this may have planted the seed that will one day grow into her realization that she is in danger, and needs to get out.

That is huge.


Edited by Elphaba
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My friend was in the strangest situation. This woman in her ward came running to her house because she and her husband were fighting and he said he was going to get his gun. As he reached towards the nightstand, she took off. When she got to my friend's, they called the police, they searched the place and didn't find the gun, and they couldn't prove he actually threatened her with it.

She acted certain that it was over, but she went back to him, told him where she went, and then he got up in testimony meeting where he rambled about how he was grateful God is the one who judges, staring my friends down as he did it. Afterwards the woman went up to my friend and said, "My husband thinks you don't like him."

Gee, why? Because he threatened to kill her? She told her the next time she needs to run somewhere, don't come running to her house because she's putting her family in danger. I understand all the reasons why women feel like they can't leave, but sometimes they sure have a way of making it a nightmare for people around them. It's hard to be a friend to someone who is being abused because you don't feel safe and you're helpless to do anything but call the police if you happen to see or hear anything.

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I can't think of anything else by way of advice for you at this point, but I can share with you a little bit about my own story that might help you see things more from her perspective. I know what she is going through now won't be the same as this, but the symptoms should be the same.

When I was with my husband, there were several times when we had fights that sent me running terrified out of the apartment. He would be restraining and beating me, chasing me around the apartment in an attempt to prevent me leaving, threatening to call the police on me because I was acting crazy and out of control, and finally chasing me down as I made it out the door to demand I come back. I never stayed gone for more than an hour though, for several reasons-

1. I had nowhere to go. The few friends I had in the area he'd convinced me I could not trust, had pushed me into argument with them that alienated them, and I was too proud to admit to them that I was being abused. I also did not feel safe going to a shelter as he'd spent a year of his life homeless, he knew the downtown area very well and knew the location of the shelter.

2. I had no financial support-period. I had no job, no cash, no credit card as he'd used it until we'd overdrafted and had it cancelled, and no checking accounts as he'd done the same with those that he did with the credit card. He was in complete control of the money.

3. I had no transportation. We did not own a vehicle, and I didn't have money to pay for a bus ride or cab and had no phone to call one either.

4. I was terrified of the local neighborhood. We lived in the ghetto and he was constantly telling me what an idiot I was for the things I did, that I was too dense to notice mens advances and couldn't take care of myself, that without him with me to protect me I'd end up raped and if that happened, he'd have no respect for me and would leave me.

5. I was still pregnant and felt helpless and weak (for several of these moments) or- I had left my son with him in the apartment as I couldn't dash outside with a baby in the cold weather and I was afraid that if I was gone too long something would happen to him.

6. Pride. Leaving meant I would have to admit to myself and everyone else the truth of my situation. I was in denial. I was always trying to prove with the few people I still communicated that my husband was a wonderful man as none of them liked him or trusted him. Leaving meant I couldn't lie anymore.

7. I still loved him. I knew that leaving would break his heart and I was afraid he would commit suicide. Even though he'd hurt me countless times in countless ways, I couldn't bring myself to hurt him like that.

8. Even though I knew I'd made a rash, quick, reckless decision in marrying him, I had a deeply rooted respect for the sanctity of marriage and was unwilling to break it. The thought of doing this was more devistating than the thought of leaving him. If we hadn't been married, it would have been much easier, but I would have felt guilty as (the way I saw it) it would be my fault that our family was broken.

9. I didn't want to seperate my son from his father, however horrible he was. I was convinced that my little baby loved his father more than he loved me because my husband would use many manipulative tactics to convince me this was so. I didn't want to be responsible for breaking that bond.

10. I'd fled during the heat of an argument usually not dressed for the weather (no shoes or jacket), and I knew that if I was going to make the leave permanent I would have to go back to retrieve what I needed to get further than a few blocks. It was easier to go back and apologize than it was to go back with the intent to make the leave permanent.

11. I was depressed to the point of wanting to commit suicide, and the only reason I didn't was because I knew my son needed me.

12. My husband had me convinced that my behavior was worse than his, and even told his twisted version of the truth to our bishop as a tool to use against me.

13. My husband was dependant on me. He had a back injury that prevented him from working. While I had no job, our money basis was supplied by my parents and if I left he would not have that. He was always in pain and I gave him frequent massages to comfort that. And I did all the housework because he claimed the pain was so severe he couldn't do anything more than sit on the couch or lay on the bed, and occassionally get up to walk around a bit.

What did it take to get me out of there? I finally had my eyes open to the danger my son was in. I knew I had to protect him from getting hurt. I secretly reached out to my bestfriend to ask for advice. She said she would come get me to take me home. That gave me the push I needed to make a plan. Without the need to protect my son, without the outside help of my friends, without the preparation to sneak away so I wasn't just fleeing during a fight, I never would have made it out of there.

Anyone in an abusive relationship where the abuse has become physical has already been warped emotionally. Their mind is clouded in a fog of denial, fear, guilt, manipulation, and depression. They are stuck, and they don't know how to see it. Many people in these relationships end up dead before they're able to break through this fog.

She has to make the step to escape herself, but you can help by providing a path. If you can whittle away at some of the reasons she is staying, then when her eyes are opened it will be easier for her to leave. The key, is that when she leaves she must not go back. If she goes back, she'll get herself stuck in the cycle all over again.

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I cannot say in words how much I appreciate the responses I have gotten. I wish I could simply make the abuse stop, but that's not how the world works. With your permission, Judominja, I'd like to print your comment and let my good friend read it for herself. Perhaps it's just the 'whittling' she'll need to find her own way to peace and safety at home again.


There is another coworker there (several actually, and I'm very saddened by this fact) that has said to my face they have no respect for women who stay in abusive relationships. I wonder why they blame the woman for the abuse, and not the man that's causing it in the first place...At any rate I am very humbled by your comments. I just want to do the right thing. If I see something wrong going on, I have a responsibility to do what I can to stop it. If nothing else happens, at least I can be an example of how men should treat all women, whether married to them or not.

She may not be as socially comfortable as others, and she may not be easy to get along with by everyone she meets, but I cannot help but see in her the fact that she is just as special a child of God as I am, or as anyone else has ever been.

Nobody deserves to live in fear of their spouse. Nobody deserves physical abuse.....ever. I can only imagine how our Savior feels when he sees this going on. As I said before, it breaks my heart to even know it's happening at all, let alone to a friend of mine.

For now, I'm in supportive and observant mode. She's been in good spirits lately, so at least that's something. I'll post updates as the situation warrants.

Thank you one and all for your support in this. Like her, I can't do this right alone. Your help has been beyond value.

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With your permission, Judominja, I'd like to print your comment and let my good friend read it for herself. Perhaps it's just the 'whittling' she'll need to find her own way to peace and safety at home again.

You have my permission. It may help her, as long as she's very careful not to leave it somewhere that her husband could see it. If he see's it, he'll up the isolation to prevent her leaving.

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  • 2 weeks later...

2-16-10 *update*

My friend at work has, with her husband, quit drinking cold turkey. I never saw it coming, but I'm very glad they chose to do so together. Even more impressive is that she used to drink twelve beers and a pint of tequila....every day. He was much worse apparently, because before twelve hours into their sobriety, he was taken to the emergency room for withdrawal symptoms.

She has been suffering as well, but coping nicely until yesterday. She called me ask for a ride to work. When I showed up, she wasn't there. Then I was called in to work sunday night because the GM failed to schedule a desk clerk. So I was to work the desk, while the weekend manager served. I was confused until the weekend manager told me that my friend's mother-in-law had called in for her due to a miscarriage.

I told the manager that as soon as I had spoken with her, I'd come in and work. She finally came out to my car (I pick her up at a grocery store near her house) and we sat together and talked for an hour. She never said what caused the miscarriage, but I have my thoughts. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it.

I'm working on some affordable housing for her to move into, something she's asked me to help her with. She's already begun getting ready to leave him, but she simply lacks the financial resources right now. I also spoke with my two brothers in town about letting her use their guest rooms if she needs them. They both are willing to help if needed, so there's some good coming out of all of this yet.

I'm still concerned because she's not only going through a miscarriage and withdrawals from severe alcoholism, but she's also diabetic. I'm praying constantly for guidance for me, and protection and help for her.

Thanks again for all your help, and comments are still very much needed and welcome.


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If she's admitted that she's already begun getting ready to leave him, then your suspicions are probably correct. Just keep being there for her, show her that others are there for her, and make sure she realizes that her options are open.

There are ways for her to get out even if she is not yet financially able. A women's shelter will take her in, and she can receive welfare and foodstamps until she is back on her feet. Just make sure she knows that, and then at least she won't be staying because she doesn't have a place to go.

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Yeah, I've already found two places in town that will take her in immediately if needed. That's beside myself and two of my brothers and their families in town that are willing to do the same.

Sobriety is doing wonders for her, and I am very amazed at her personal strength. She has been clean from day one, and has no regrets so far. Apparently her husband is a little better, but still severely jealous. Since she's much happier recently, I'm back in watch and be a friend mode. When she's ready she already knows I'm there for her as well as another employee here.

Thanks again.

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*final update* 2-22-10

Well, it's over. It happened earlier than I expected. She had another rotten day with her man and his mother. I guess while she was asleep, they stole her wallet and all her money amounting to thirty dollars or more. So while she was at work, I talked to my brother and his wife, and they were eager to meet her today so she could move in and start getting her life together. The meeting will not happen though. Saturday evening she had a vicious fight with her guy, and she called her parents at home in Colorado to say she was done up here and needed to get there.

They were up here in three hours, and she quit the diner immediately (while I was still sleeping for the night shift). She called me from Colorado to let me know what happened and to thank me for helping her out of a bad place.

So...she's done with Mr. Teriffic, safe and able to see her 4-year-old son, and looking at a great summer job already. Once again, I must thank all of you for your input and advice.

JudoMinja, I thank you especially because I gave her your comments to read, and she told me that they set her firmly in what she needed to do. She also thanks all of you for helping me.

This is one happy conclusion I will always remember. I hope there are many more in the future.

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