There’s a wonderful blog that often addresses important issues for women: The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker
In this post, she asked some important questions. Here are two of them:
“When do attempts to help and support become interference, and what would you view as indifference?”
“What prevents domestic/intimate partner (or any) abuse victims from seeing even the most obvious abuse?”
What are your thoughts? How would you answer these questions? Below is the comment I left there.
There is a powerful force that professionals refer to as Trauma Bonding or Stockholm Syndrome. This is an excellent article for those unfamiliar with it: http://drjoecarver.makeswebsites.com/clients/49355/File/love_and_stockholm_syndrome.html
An important facet to explore would be to recognize the difference between reactive abuse and abuse. Abuse causes reactive abuse, and not the other way around. If this woman is intelligent, educated, and strong in many ways, then she could be reacting strongly in a normal way to abnormal dynamics/abuse. Some women go quiet. Some women fight it. Either way, the end result is the same. The woman being abused is systematically diminished.
Abusive men aren’t abusive 24/7. This is what contributes to trauma bonding. Since this happens over time, it’s easy for gas lighting (when someone undermines your reality and causes you to question it) to take its toll, and what seems obvious to the outside observer is not clear to the victim. Someone outside of the relationship may see something clearly, but the woman herself might be stepping blindly through a thick fog.
How do you help her? Believe in her. Listen to her. Build her up faster than he’s tearing her down. Be patient and consistent. Listen to her fears, and never dismiss them. Help her to remember who she is and what she enjoys and loves. Validate her worth.
Recognize that the man you see is the one he chooses to show you. Be willing to believe there is more to him and more to the story. She’ll experience their family, friends, and neighbors telling her what a great guy he is. Be willing to believe that along with all his charm, he has the capacity to repetitively abuse her. He will be typically indifferent to the impact of his abuse. When outsiders show impatience and indifference, his message that she’s not worth being loved and respected is strengthened.
One of the most power aspects of abuse is the predictable unpredictability, and its consistent inconsistency. Be the stable, predictable, safe voice of support. Don’t ask her to leave or expect it of her. Help her to trust herself. Help her to believe in herself. Love her so that she remembers what love feels and looks like.