My friend Andria is free.
After twenty years of marriage, and four long years of an unending divorce process, she is not living in chains. It will take some time for her soul to sink into a new normal, but she is no longer sleeping with the enemy.
Sadly, millions of women are involved in abusive relationships and don’t know how to get out.
According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
- 1 in 3 women have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.
- Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
- Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
Learning how to best support someone as they are leaving a relationship with a sociopath, or any abuser, can be challenging. Oftentimes women who remain in abusive relationships stay because they get caught up in a predictable, patterned cycle of abuse. A wheel that spins from the Honeymoon Period to Tension, and finally Explosion, over and over again.
One of the most difficult things for me as a friend was to watch Andria’s life spin on this wheel when she was married to her husband. Around and around until her very being began to unravel. As a result of living with an abusive sociopath for so long, Andria suffered from intense anxiety, depression, and had no sense of self-worth.
Sociopaths are often very intelligent, and so their ability to manipulate, coerce, and terrify others in order to maintain power and control is unsurpassed. Every facet of their lives is dedicated to maintaining dominance, using every tactic imaginable, no matter the cost to others.
While Andria was married to the enemy, I encouraged her to look at her marriage from a lens different than the one she viewed her relationship through for so long. I cried with her, pleaded with her, and supported her. And still she stayed. I had a difficult time understanding why. But, Andria wasn’t going to leave because she was terrified. And her husband had made sure that she had no financial resources to fund an escape. This is an unfortunate phenomenon, as many women stay in these types of relationship because they do not have the financial means to leave.
So, how can we best support women as they find the courage to leave abuse?
- Financially. It goes without saying that women who leave their abusers have often been subject to financial abuse, and need help, especially if they have children. They need money for housing, clothing, food, cell phone, transportation, legal, etc. Meeting these basic needs is vital to ensuring they can stay out of the abusive relationship and begin to rebuild. As an individual, it is unlikely you can provide all of the necessities for your friend or loved one. Seek assistance from local churches and women’s centers that advocate for the needs and safety of women and children while helping her get a plan together.
- Emotionally. Judgement is not needed here. Focus on the feelings your friend or loved one might be having and encourage them to seek help through counseling, or other similar avenues, that will offer therapeutic support. Be someone who can offer suggestions and possible solutions for leaving, but never, ever demand they leave the relationship. If they are in immediate danger, call the police. Otherwise, offer sound advice out of love, and ask sensitive questions that will help draw out the reality of the situation, without harshness or sanctimonious opinions. Be someone your friend or loved one sees as trustworthy and reliable. Remember, their abuser is anything but that.
- Spiritually. Offer the support that draws upon God’s grace. Oftentimes women feel an intense amount of guilt and shame for staying with their abuser. Remind her that she has a God-ordained purpose for her life and that she is precious to Him. God promises that he will make streams in the desert for us and heal our land. Philippians 4:19 says that “my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Shine the light so brightly that God’s love falls from you to her heart, so that she can feel acceptance and the courage to step into her deliverance.
Of course, there are other ways you can support someone who is caught up in, or is leaving, an abusive relationship. If you or someone you know needs help, you can find more resources at The National Coalition for Domestic Abuse.
There is freedom after abuse.