“That’s What Friends Do”- the Best Ways to Support a Friend  

 

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“A friend is a friend til the end of the end- that’s forever cause that’s what friends do” – A Very Wise Sponge

 

As a survivor of relationship violence, my friends were not there for me. They took the side of the abuser and began to spread the same lies that he was saying in order to mask the real truth, even the friends that I had had since elementary school. In the moment, I was not sure what hurt worse: my boyfriend’s betrayal or my friends. I was forced to move schools and start over half way through my junior year. Sadly, this is not too uncommon. But, there are also stories of amazing friends who stuck by their friends and helped them get from a victim to a thriving survivor. I heard a story like this when I met my roommates in college. My roommate was also in an abusive relationship in high school, but her friends were a little more knowledgeable on teen dating violence. See, they knew how to be supportive in this situation and they were true friends. With their help, my roommate was able to graduate from her school, continue to have the same friends, and have an easier time with the healing process. Friends can make a huge difference in the life of a teen dating violence victim, and I wish that my friends would have known that. I wish they would have been like my roommates friends and followed the advice of Spongebob in “That’s What Friends Do.”

If you start noticing some warning signs of abuse make sure to act on your gut. These warning signs might include:

·      Lower self-esteem / depressed

·      Drastically changing their appearance / behavior

·      Stops hanging out with friends / family

·      Blames themselves for the abuse

·      Change in social media presence

·      Attached to phone when not around partner; afraid to miss a text / call

·      Paranoid

·      Sensitive to touch

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·      Heavy makeup / long clothing to cover up

·      Makes excuses for dating partner

·      Slacking in responsibilities (school, job, etc.)

·      Says they can't talk / hang out with certain people because of their partner

There could be more warning signs; you have more understanding of your friend and their relationship than I am writing this. Trust your gut. It’s more important to ensure that they are okay then to choose to never have that talk with them.


A few things to remember when you are talking about it with them:

·      Never make them break up with the abuser. This is problematic for two main reasons: one being that leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time in that relationship. Around 70% of the murders that happen in domestic or dating violence relationships happen when the victim is leaving. Problem number two: It takes, on average, 7 instances of abuse for a victim to leave an abusive relationship. So, be patient and understanding.

·      Never blame them for the abuse - abuse is never the victim’s fault

·      Tell them, “It’s not your fault," and "You don’t deserve to be hurt.”

·      Let them talk, don’t interrupt, and believe them

·      Call out the abusive behavior, but don't put down their dating partner. Your friend will likely get defensive and may not feel like you're a safe person to talk to in the future

·      Your friend may not be ready to leave their relationship, support their choices

·      Show your friend that you are a safe person to talk to and you'll support them with their decisions

·      Help them safety plan and make sure they're safe

·      Suggest help and resources for your friend, such as TAP808, the crisis text line 741-741, or other community resources.

Getting help isn't always easy, but it's a lot easier knowing you’re not alone.

Here’s a short list of reasons why people stay:

Why Stay?

  • Isolation

  • Fear / threats of murder or suicide

  • Abuse may get worse

  • Threats to “out” partner

  • Love / hope for change

  • Embarrassed / ashamed

  • Lack of resources

  • Normalized violence

  • Culture / family / religion

  • Don’t know it’s abuse

  • Victim blaming

  • Financial dependency

  • Gender expectations

  • “Can handle”

  • Immigrant status

  • This may be their first relationship

  • Adults / parents may not know they’re dating

  • Teen relationships are seen as “puppy love”

  • Violence isn’t taken serious

  • In Hawai’i, teens lack confidentiality and rights

  • Must be 18 to file for a TRO

This is important to know because it shows the large range of reasons why people have to stay in abusive relationships. Understanding this, allows us to be better friends especially when we are supporting victims.

It might be odd to think that you’d help a friend who is abusing their dating partner but that’s needed just as much as what’s listed above. Friends who are abusive will probably never flat out tell you that they’re abusing their dating partner. However, there are some warning signs for friends who are abusive:

·      Shares explicit or nude photos to friends / online without the consent of their dating partner

·      Talks in a condescending way about their dating partner

·      Brags about harming, controlling, or hurting their dating partner

·      Adheres to strict gender roles

·      Believes they have the right to make all the decisions in their dating relationship

·      Minimizes the fact that they isolate their partner from family, friends, and social media

·      Stalks their partner’s whereabouts through social media, cellphone, and in person

·      Sends threatening texts, comments, DMs or voice mails

·      Has a history of being abusive or abused

·      Has very demeaning beliefs about women or men

·      Is prone to breaking objects when enraged

·      Forces partner to use drugs or alcohol

It’s important to assist these friends because there are legal consequences for being abusive. You don’t want to see your friend’s in jail, expelled, or have their reputation ruined forever, right? Being a supportive friend means being by their side “til the end of the end- that’s forever.” Also, think about it this way, you might be saving their significant other too. Here’s some tips on how to talk to someone who is being abusive:

·      Tell them that abuse is never okay and affects everyone in their life

·      Help your friend take responsibility for their actions

·      Remind them it’s never okay to use jealousy, anger or insecurity to control others

·      Explain that there’s no excuse for being abusive: blaming the abuse on stress, childhood upbringing, or drugs / alcohol is not okay

·      Explain that there are legal consequences and they could lose the people they care about

·      Tell them that with support they can change their behavior

·      Discuss healthy traits in a relationship

·      Suggest help and resources

In some cases, a friend may be reluctant to change their behavior. They may insist there’s no problem, minimize the effects of their control, or even blame the abuse on their partner. Some people, when called out for abuse, equate that friend’s concern as desire for their dating partner. In this case, it can be safer to talk about what you see when joined by a group of friends or peers. This decreases the likelihood of a violent response, and tells the abuser that their behavior is so problematic; it has become common knowledge to the general public. If ever you fear that an abusive friend could retaliate against you or their dating partner, be sure to have a safety plan in place. This could be phone numbers or links to resources, or even a restraining order. Plan wisely, and find a place and time that’s safe and public.

 

Hopefully these tips help everyone be better friends. Friends that are friends til the end of the end- that’s forever cause that’s what friends do” – A Very Wise Sponge (because we should all live our lives by a Spongebob quote, right? Right)