- My friend’s partner is mean. Is this abuse?
- What can I do to help?
- My friend isn’t ready to leave the relationship. What are some ways I can be supportive right now?
- I don’t know if I should get involved. Isn’t it their private business?
- I think she provokes him. Isn’t some of this her fault?
- Why doesn’t she just break up with him?
- This situation is so frustrating. Should I just give up?
My friend’s partner is mean. Is this abuse?
Relationships can be unhealthy without being abusive, but an unhealthy relationship may become abusive. If you are worried about someone you care about, there are some signs you can watch for.
Signs someone may be being abused by their partner:
- withdraws from contact with family and friends
- withdraws from social events and other activities they used to enjoy
- loss of self worth
- constantly making excuses for their partner’s actions
- seems anxious to please partner and make sure nothing upsets them
- have bruises and other injuries
Signs someone may be abusive to their partner
- controlling of their partner’s behaviour
- possessive and extremely jealous
- constantly texting and wanting to know where their partner is
- belittles partner in front of family, friends, and other people their partner respects
- monitors their partner’s social media activity
- posts hurtful things about their partner on social media
- threatens to hurt their partner
- threatens to hurt themselves (“I’ll kill myself if you ever leave me.”)
For more information about types of abuse go to: General information about abuse.
If you think someone you can about may be being abused by their partner, there are things you can do to help.
What can I do to help?
There are many things you can do to help a loved one in an abusive situation.
The first thing you can do is open up a conversation. Do it in a place where you have some privacy and feel safe. You don’t need to “build a case” or open up with accusations, it can be as simple as asking a question or two that shows you’re concerned, supportive, and someone your friend can talk to about their situation.
Talk about specific behaviours or incidents. “I noticed the way your partner reacted when I dropped you off late last time we hung out. It was a little scary to see how angry he was. Does he react like that often?” Often, the survivor may jump to defend the abuser. This is a common reaction. Be patient and don’t judge them. Let them know that you’re concerned about them and they can trust you.
Offer resources and information. While you can support your friend, it is not up to you to “fix” the situation. Connect your friend with resources in the community that can help them.
For information about people and organizations in your community who can help, go to the LawCentral Alberta website.
My friend isn’t ready to leave the relationship. What are some ways I can be supportive right now?
You can decide how involved you want to be, but your support can make a big difference.
- Don’t judge
- Be patient
- Offer support where you can, be gentle with yourself when you can’t
- Make a support plan
- Help them make a safety plan
- Help your friend find supports
- Address relationship violence as a larger issue in your community
I don’t know if I should get involved. Isn’t it their private business?
Disagreements and rough patches happen in any relationship, but abuse is something else. It is one person hurting another and it is wrong. Abuse is not a private matter between two people in a relationship, it is a public issue and it is a crime.
It is very difficult for victims of abuse to leave the relationship on their own. It is important for friends, families, and communities to stand up to abuse and support victims.
I think she provokes him. Isn’t some of this her fault?
No. Abusers often use the excuse that the victim provoked them, saying “He just can’t help himself.” This is a tactic abusers use to avoid responsibility for their actions. No one is responsible for another person’s actions.
No one ever deserves to be abused. Disagreements are a normal part of relationships, but violence is not.
Why doesn’t she just break up with him?
There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships.
- The person being abused may not want the relationship to end, they just want the abuse to stop.
- The abuser may threaten to hurt themselves, the survivor, or their children if the relationship ends.
- Abusers use control and manipulation, including wearing down the survivor’s self esteem. They may say things like “No one else will ever love you.” And eventually the victim may come to believe it.
- The cycle of abuse often includes a period of reconciliation when the abuser changes behaviour for a little while and this can be a time when the survivor hopes the abuse has stopped for good.
- The end of a relationship can be a dangerous time. The abuser sees they are losing control and make react more violently.
This situation is so frustrating. Should I just give up?
Seeing a loved one in an abusive relationship can be very painful, especially if they do not end the relationship right away. It can be very hard to watch a person return to an abusive situation and you may feel like giving up.
Maintaining contact with someone who is in an abusive relationship is very important. A common tactic abusers use is to cut the victim off from their support network, leaving them totally dependent on the abuser. They will often tell the victim that their friends and family don’t really care about them.If someone feels supported, it can be easier to leave an abusive relationship.
Talking to the person being abused in a caring way without judgement can make a big difference in helping them take steps to end the abuse. If someone feels judged, it can make the situation even worse. They may be less likely to talk about it if the abuse happens again or gets worse. If they don’t feel supported, it can be much more difficult to leave the relationship.
For advice on how to open up the conversation, see this helpful guide for families, friends and neighbours.