If you have watched a friend or loved one endure intimate partner violence, you are probably overjoyed that they finally were able to leave the abusive situation. Someone who has recently found the courage to leave an abusive situation will need a lot of respect and compassion. It is crucial that you understand what kind of support your friend will need and the best way to go about providing it.
5 Ways to Be Supportive
Some ways you can be more supportive include the following:
#1. Allow Them to Take a Break and Be Distracted
Self-care, self-love, and having some fun are great ways to help someone who has recently gotten out of an intimate partner violence situation. Do something fun that will give them the chance to forget about their worries, at least for a little while. It can be a great opportunity to remind them that life can be fun and that they can still be the person they always wanted to be.
#2. Let Them Talk, but Don’t Make Them Talk
Your loved one will be experiencing a wide range of emotions, and their perception of reality may have become distorted because of the abusive situation they were in. What they need the most is someone who will listen while they process everything they are experiencing. However, they need to do it in their own way and within their own timeframe, so don’t push them to talk if they’re not ready or don’t want to.
#3. Be Supportive but Neutral
You may be tempted to talk badly about their abuser or the situation they were in. This is not the best way to be supportive because they are often still experiencing feelings of love and regret. Their first instinct may be to defend their abuser. If a person is in a defensive state of mind, they will likely shut down and not be able to process anything.
#4. Help Them Find Resources on Domestic Abuse
You may not know the right things to say or the best advice to give. Helping your friend find support from other resources can enable them to develop the tools they will need. Therapists, support groups, and peer counselors are great places to start.
#5. Educate Yourself on Domestic Abuse
Learn about intimate partner violence and the effect it can have on a person’s mental health. It is important to understand how your friend’s thought processes might be different than yours. Knowing the early warning signs for other mental health problems can also be helpful. About 20% of women who have been a victim of intimate partner violence develop a mental disorder. The most common are major depressive disorder (MDD), general anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a wide range of substance use disorders (SUD).
Domestic Abuse and Substance Use Disorder
The correlation between intimate partner violence and SUD is well documented. Perpetrators of intimate partner violence are often under the influence of drugs or alcohol when a violent act is committed. Unfortunately, SUD is not the only precursor to intimate partner violence.
When a person is a victim of intimate partner violence, they are at a higher risk for developing SUD themselves. Women who experience abuse and witness violent behavior often turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their situation. Sometimes they are even coerced into using substances by an abusive partner. The mental health issues that commonly co-occur in women experiencing intimate partner violence also increase the risk of developing SUD.
While you are offering love and support to a person who has endured intimate partner violence, be aware of the signs of SUD, which include:
- Unusual changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Unexplained disappearances or trouble sticking to a schedule
- Lapses in memory
- Being under the influence of alcohol more often and at inappropriate times
- Dishonest behavior such as habitual lying, stealing, or evasiveness
- Unexplained changes in coordination, mental acuity, or mood
If you suspect that they may need help with more than just the effects of intimate partner violence, you may want to sit down with them and have a serious discussion about it. There are resources and treatment programs available specifically for women that could be very helpful. Let them know that there is no challenge they can’t face and come out on the other side successfully.
The Importance of Support
Whether your friend is struggling with PTSD, depression, SUD, or a combination of mental health challenges, having support is crucial to their healing. They are going to need love and understanding as well as a strong social circle to rely on.
If they have developed SUD and require treatment, they will also need people they can rely on to help them through detox, treatment, and building a new, sober lifestyle. You can be an important factor in their success.
Healing from the effects of intimate partner violence can be a complicated process, especially if co-occurring mental health disorders have developed as a result. If you or a loved one are struggling with a substance use problem directly related to a traumatic event or situation, Spero Recovery Center can help. Our unique treatment program emphasizes community connections and peers supporting each other. We can help connect you with a group of women who are going through the same things you are, guided by those who have been through our program and are in recovery. At Spero, we encourage connecting socially at the same time that you are healing from trauma and addiction. Call us at (303) 351-7888 to learn more.