My Best Friend is Being Abused

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My best friend said to me a couple months ago that it was normal for a guy to hit his girlfriend at one point or another. She didn’t believe me or my other friend that we had never been hit by our boyfriends, or seen our fathers hit our mothers. She admitted that her dad had been hitting her for years. She said it was just what he did when he was mad, that’s just the way it was. Her parents are divorced, and when she told her mother, her parents sent her to a psych ward. So she stopped telling people besides me about it.
She came home 10 minutes after curfew (she had bronchitis and was out getting meds) and made her sleep on the front lawn. This was followed by her getting pnemonia.
This morning she came in to school with a black eye. She started crying saying that she didn’t do anything this time. She didn’t understand why he’d hit her.
When I told her dad that if I saw one more bruise on her I’d call social services, he hit her for telling me.
When she stays over, she wakes up in the middle of the night screaming “All I did was break a dish” and “Don’t send me back”

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE help I just don’t know what to do at this point. All her bruises and tears and nightmares and meds for mental disorders she doesn’t even have, I know this isn’t my responsibility but all that her mom is willing to do is give all her effort to cover it up and make sure nobody knows.
I feel like everything I do will make it worse, he’ll just get mad and hit her again. She doesn’t deserve any of this, nobody deserves what he’s putting her through. Somebody please help…

A: You are absolutely right! No one deserves this. It sounds like your friend’s mother is as afraid of her dad as she is. Your friend has been living with this so long she thinks it’s normal in a relationship. Sadly, they are not alone in feeling so stuck – and stuck with – an abusive situation. In America, an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. As is the case with your friend, witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next.

Although I appreciate your courage in telling off her dad, such efforts to intervene can backfire. Your friend and her mother need to get out of there. Fortunately, there is a women’s shelter in your city. Go to this link to learn about the services they offer. You can contact them for good advice about how best to help your friend. Another resource is The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. You, your friend, or her mother could call them for information and for some practical help.

Please don’t get discouraged. It takes time and understanding for women to get out of an abusive relationship. Educate yourself. Try to pass information along to your friend. Talk to your guidance counselor or your parents about what can be done that won’t make things worse. Be there for her. And, by all means, keep letting her know that it’s not normal to be hurt by the people who supposedly love you. In time, she may get the message.

I wish everyone well in this sad and dangerous situation.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 3 Jul 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). My Best Friend is Being Abused. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/07/03/my-best-friend-is-being-abused/