I’ve found myself really upset after seeing more information about the 4 women killed in one fortnight recently, during the current lockdown in NZ.
There have been 8 family violence homicides total since this lockdown began. It’s so scary and upsetting, and I can’t imagine what their family and friends are going through as well.
The thought of being locked down with my abusive ex makes me feel physically sick, and I can’t help but think about anyone out there who could be experiencing that sort of manipulation, fear, and potential violence and feeling like they have nowhere to go.
So, firstly, I thought I’d just re-share my old blog about my abusive relationship as a reminder that you never really know what other people are going through. Even if you think their partner is nice, that does not necessarily mean they’re immune from being abusive behind closed doors. (Please note that in the blog I really diminish my experience, but it’s definitely serious and I realise that now!)
In fact, if they are a narcissist, they’re probably extremely charming and likeable to other people because of how manipulative they are.
They can even trick police and make the victim look like the bad guy (I know my ex did with a girlfriend before me).
It’s really hard to know what people are like when you’re not around.
If you’re going through any form of emotional, mental or physical abuse like this, please reach out to a trusted person, a crisis line (there’s a list of NZ ones at the bottom of this blog), even me. I can be a non-judgemental person to talk to because unfortunately I know well what it’s like to love someone who also fucks with your head and can be straight up scary.
And please, if someone reaches out to you, it’s a very sensitive situation. I’ve been thinking of all of the things I feel make a huge difference when this happens, as a person who’s been on both sides of this scenario. Soooo, I thought I’d write them down….
Things to keep in mind if someone reaches out to you about their abusive relationship:
- Firstly, discretion is key, especially during lockdown. Assume that they are being monitored, rather than the other way around. Subtly make sure, anytime you connect, that it’s safe to talk
- Respect the bravery it takes to open up and admit something so awful about a loved one and to do something about it. Admitting that something is wrong is extremely hard and it’s one of the strongest things a person can do. This person is powerful but they likely don’t realise it.
- Feel glad that they trusted YOU to reach out to, and offer whatever help you can give and whatever they need. They clearly feel safe opening up to you which says a lot about both of you.
- Don’t be overly judgemental about their abuser or situation – they probably love or care about them in a way that might be hard to understand, and it’s not necessary to understand, just validate their experience at face value and see what they need from you.
- Avoid the “I told you so” chat, or the “I always knew there was something off about them” chat. It’s unnecessary and quite victim blamey. It could just make your friend defensive and they’ve probably been spending a fair bit of time walking on eggshells as it is, you don’t want to add to that.
- Don’t make it about yourself. It’s very easy to get angry at the person who hurt your friend and talk about wanting to hurt them back, or how you wish you were never nice to them or whatever. This ain’t the time or place to make it about you. You can be upset, but they’re not the person to talk to about how their awful situation has upset you.
- Try avoid dismissing or diminishing their concerns if you don’t think it’s “bad enough”. If they’ve reached out, it’s likely for good reasons and abuse is more than just physical violence – months or years of emotional or mental abuse is just as bad if not worse. Sometimes the tipping point for them is small and might make no sense to you. Again, validate their trauma – it’s probably wildly complex.
- Remind them that people love them, care about them, want to help, and will help. Often a victim of this form of abuse has been worn down on their own value and might not even feel that they deserve help. But you can remind them of their value and how important their safety is and that they deserve the whole world. They might not believe you, but just telling them the nice things that you see in them might slowly help to remind them.
- Remind them that it’s NOT their fault, because it isn’t. Even if they also got aggressive back as a result of how they were treated – reactive abuse is a concerningly effective abuse tactic.
- And very importantly, it’s up to them to decide when to leave – try not be too pushy about it (even though you’d probably want to drive over immediately and be a knight in shining armour). Leaving can be extremely unsafe and scary, and forcing it would not help.
- HOWEVER, if they need urgent help for whatever reason, be prepared to call emergency health services, the police, health centre, or a hotline (see list below).
- If they’ve been choked/strangled, this is serious as it exponentially increases the likelihood of homicide. That’s probably above yours and my pay grade – I’d call a helpline for advice if someone told me this.
- And finally, check in with them regularly, if they’re still with this person and/or after they’ve left them. Even if they won’t leave them for a while, you can always continually touch base so that they know there is a safe, non-judgemental person there for them when they’re ready.
Basically, validate, and support non-judgementally. Make sure they know that they can reach out to you as soon as they want to leave and you’ll be there for them.
It took me far too long to leave my ex and by then I was in another country to my best friend, but I knew deep down the whole relationship that she would have put me up, no questions asked, if I had taken the leap while I was still in the UK.
She knew a handful of the worst things that went on between us and she made it very clear that she’d support me if I wanted to move to her city. In fact, she made it just seem like she wanted me to be there to work and hang out! Which she probably did also want.
But she also didn’t push or make me defensive. She was the only person I trusted to reach out to when things got bad and I’ll forever be grateful to her for that. Just knowing I had a safety net was huge. Even though I was so deep in it I didn’t know how badly I needed it.
Stay safe out there everyone! You deserve to feel safe and happy, heard and respected. Your emotions are valid, you know your reality. And when someone tells you who they are, believe them.
If you have other questions or want to chat to me, feel free to reach out. Otherwise, the internet is full of great information. And I’ll put important numbers/websites below for if you need help.
Important links and details (NZ):
- In case of emergency, call 111
- Women’s Refuge Crisisline: 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
- Women’s Refuge email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Women’s Refuge: womensrefuge.org.nz
- Are You OK?: areyouok.org.nz
- National Network of Stopping Violence: nnsvs.org.nz
- Shine: 2shine.org.nz