Do you know anyone who has gone through domestic violence? Most of you will probably answer, yes, someone you know went through it. The amount that it happens is very sad. The Gabby Petito case is all over the news right now and October is Domestic Violence awareness month. If you do know someone who went through it or is going through it, you probably wondered how to help them. I personally went through it for twelve years. It was a long time ago and God has healed me a lot from it. I don’t have all the answers, that is for sure, but I may be able to give some insight.
In the case of Gabby, as I watched some videos of them pulled over and heard what was said, there were two things that stood out to me as “tell tale signs” that Brian (her boyfriend) was abusive to her. The first obvious one, the 911 caller said “I saw him slapping her” and when Gabby herself stated to the police man, after talking about starting her blog, that “he doesn’t believe I can do it.” If a man is a descent man, he will not hit a woman, even if she hits him first. Second, if he didn’t believe she could do it (the blog), he had little respect for her as a person. A loving partner will encourage you in your endeavors. If they respect you, they would try to encourage you and not reveal their lack of faith in you.(unless respectfully trying to help you understand that something is realistically too difficult) Just these two pieces of evidence were enough for me to tell that he was abusive. Abusive people have similar characteristics. I learned this many years ago when my sister brought me to the local domestic violence center after being hurt by my then, husband. They handed me a paper to read, with the characteristics of an abusive person on it. That’s finally when it sank in for me to admit to myself, that yes, my husband was an abuser. As I looked at the list in black and white on the page, it was describing the man I lived with, even though they didn’t know a thing about him. I know it’s hard to understand for people that have not gone through it. You may think it should be obvious, but when your in the middle of it, things are so foggy and hard to comprehend.
If you have not been through it yourself, I’m sure it is very hard to understand why women stay in it so long. Why don’t they just leave?, you may think. The answers will vary for different women but it is more complicated than it may seem. It is much easier to be outside, looking in and think to yourself, just leave! But to the woman in it, it is never that simple. Especially if there are children involved, which most times there are. A good mom obviously is concerned for their children. This makes it even more difficult to get out for different reasons. One reason is the woman may worry that she will not be able to provide for the child or children and herself financially. Another reason may be that she worries the spouse/boyfriend will take the child away from her. Sometimes this is even used as a threat against her. In any case, the stress on the woman is so tremendous that forming a plan to get away, and everything that would involve is just simply too much for her to have the energy and clarity of mind to accomplish.
One way to help if she opens up to you, don’t react with anger or astonishment. This could cause her to shut down and not feel she can trust you. Take time to pray about your response to her. You cannot rescue someone who hasn’t admitted to herself that she needs help. You can pray that the Lord will open her eyes to what is really happening. Don’t spend a lot of money or time putting together a plan for her to leave unless you know for sure she is ready to leave. You may well be disappointed if you do this. Most times women will leave and go back again after being “sweet talked” into going back or manipulated into it. Abuse is usually something that has been slowly getting worse for years so it will take time for her to “undo” all the lies in her head she has been believing and come to a place where she has had enough.
You can encourage her that she deserves to be loved in a respectful way. Tell her about examples of real love actions that are shown in healthy relationships. She may not know what that looks like, if she never experienced it herself. You can give her hot line numbers and encourage her to call them if she feels in danger. Unfortunately many abusive relationships can end up in the death of the woman. But I know personally that when you love someone, it is hard to comprehend that they may be a danger to you, even if they’ve hurt you in the past. Abuse has a cyclical pattern of good, slowly getting worse, the blow up and violence, then a calm for a while where things seem good, and then slowly building up again to another blow up. In the middle of it, she cannot recognize this. She will have hope that things are getting better and many times a woman is promised by the abuser that, yes, things will get better. That slim hope can keep her trying to make it work for a long time.
I know people wonder how she can love someone that hurts her. Personally I was told by him that it was my fault. Many times, this is the case. The woman is blamed and she may have done something that she feels bad about, so she believes if only she did something different or better, than it would have been different. An abuser never takes responsibility for their own actions. They will blame anything or anyone else besides themselves. I used to think, “if only I would have done this” or “if only I wouldn’t have said that”. I used to try harder to please and so forth. So if you can encourage an abused woman, maybe it would help her to hear that she is a good mom or a good wife and “it’s ok that you asked for help with the kids” etc. so she can realize she is not making unreasonable requests or unreasonable decisions. Tell her that no one deserves to be hurt, even if they make mistakes. She may know this is the truth but need to hear it from someone else. Her self esteem will be at an all time low so any encouragement will help.
Like I said before, I don’t have all the answers but I do know that if a woman gets out of an abusive relationship, she will need therapy and it will take a long, long time to heal. But it can be done. I am living proof. God does not like divorce but he definitely does not like abuse! That is not how he intended marriage to be. We are to love and respect each other as he loved us. Thank God, he brought me to meet a man, who I am now happily married to, who loves and respects me the way I always dreamed about. I am so thankful to God for saving me from that abuse. It could have turned out drastically different. If you are reading this and you are in an abusive relationship, know that God does care and he does love you and you can get out. Just keep praying about how and he will show you the way. It takes courage, and faith but it can be done.