Some tips to know how to help a woman who is a victim of abuse.
Thanks to greater social awareness, more and more abused women dare to raise their voices, seek help and get it through an extensive support network, made up of friends, family members and specialists in gender violence.
However, much remains to be done. Knowing how to help an abused woman is not an easy or delicate task, running the risk that, despite good intentions, the situation will worsen even more. Next we will see ways to address this problem.
How to help a battered woman?
So far in 2020, there have been 34 femicides in Spain. This figure, unfortunately, will increase taking into account forced confinement, causing many battered women to live 24/7 with their batterers. The fact is not at all flattering if we take into account that, throughout their lives, 10% of women are abused by their partners, which translates into 2 million women in Spain. Of all battered women, only 30% dare to report.
Abuse, whether physical or verbal, has a profound impact. Unfortunately, at least in the beginning, the abused woman is usually not able to see clearly the situation in which she finds herself, even though she is well aware of all the pain she is suffering. You need a push, from a family member or a close loved one, to make you see the light at the end of the tunnel, get you away from your abuser and take the appropriate legal measures. The process that leads them to regain their self-esteem, their value for what they are, human beings with their rights and their desires, is slow, but not impossible.
In abusive relationships there is a whole relationship of dominance and submission. A relationship that requires a lot of courage to stand up against the man, but also a lot of support to make sure that this rebellion is not the last thing she does in life. Getting out of this dynamic is not easy and, almost always, carries risks, especially when there are physical attacks in between. In addition, the victim himself may refuse to break with the dynamic, for fear of what will happen to his children or because he believes that his partner is really going to change.
How does abuse arise?
In most cases, mistreatment does not start with a beating. They begin with controlling behaviors, evolving to the violation of privacy and, already in a more advanced stage, into physical and psychological abuse, along with isolation from friends and family.
One should not fall for the idea that the abused woman actually saw it coming, but let the ill-treatment continue. It happens as in the metaphor of the boiled frog: if you put a frog in a hot pot, it will jump, but, if you have put them with warm water and have been heating the water until it boils, it will remain there.
But despite the damage, already when the relationship has evolved to much more, all the mistreatments seem to vanish when the boyfriend or husband, repentant, says in a sweet tone that he is sorry. Although that does not compensate at all for what she has done, the woman, physically and mentally kidnapped, forgives her executioner, blaming herself for treating him badly.
How to identify a battered woman?
Although abuse is not something to be taken lightly, much less blame any man for domestic violence, there are a number of indicators that can warn us that a sister, friend or acquaintance needs help.
First, there is a change in your personality. If she does not express her needs, she always gives in to what her partner tells her, she is very submissive in his presence or we have noticed that since she has been dating him there is something different about her, as if she had turned off, we have reason to suspect. A very striking notice is when they say that to do anything, especially with their friends, they need to ask their partner if it is okay for them. It is an indicator that your decision making is determined by the dominance of your boyfriend or husband.
Clothing also warns us if something is wrong. If before she went out with her new partner, our friend or acquaintance was very careful how she was dressed, being elegant and very lively, but now she seems to be more covered and less showy, it may mean that her partner does not like how she used to be dressed. Perhaps she has made a comment like “You will not go to the street dressed like that”, “If you love me, you will not go like this to provoke other men”, and so on.
Finally, if it is not possible for us to stay with her long, it may indicate that her partner is not letting her go out. If, above all, she does not see the family either and we know that she was very close to her, there are sufficient reasons to broach the subject. In addition, the few times we have had the opportunity to see her, we have noticed her very dull, sad, with anxious symptoms.
If we see a bruise, although it does not necessarily have to mean that your partner is abusing you, it is a warning sign. This is especially so if you say phrases like “I am very clueless, I have fallen” or “I have hit the door.” It could happen, of course, but guilt is also a sign that she has suffered abuse, blaming herself for how her husband has treated her.
Intervention with the victim of abuse
Women who are abused need to understand, in the first place, why they have not been able to flee from such ill-treatment on their own account or have avoided it. There are many myths about abuse, the most painful and unfair being the one that says that the women who suffer it have actually tolerated it. This is not the case, since no one in their right mind would want to live hell every day.
These people often need a professional to help them understand how this phenomenon of forgiving the unforgivable occurs to those who believe they love them. They need someone to help them understand why every two by three they fell on that honeymoon that came after the storm. They need to be heard, without prejudice on the part of the professional.
The emotional expression of the woman victim of abuse is as important as the management and emotional reception by the professional, which will help her understand herself, working to eliminate the feeling of guilt and understand that she is the victim, and never he deserved that treatment.
Self-esteem is a very important aspect during therapy with victims of domestic violence, in addition to making you rethink your life, make plans for the future. Feeling fully capable and autonomous without your executioner. This process is not easy, of course, since it will require several factors to take into account, such as the severity of the case, the duration of the abuse, the personal skills of the victim, the family and social support network, among others. Many.
And in relation to the family and social support network, friendships and relatives are a fundamental aspect, almost as important as psychotherapy, for the abused woman to move forward. Often times, it is these relationships who notice that something is wrong, and decide to act. The problem, as we have already said, is that you must be especially careful, since the abused woman may be in serious danger.
The first thing to let you know is that you have us by your side. We must tell you that we are there for what you need, and that if you have a problem to call us. She may not recognize the situation, but she will know from the beginning that she has someone to support her and whom she can talk to if she wishes. We have taken a step to give you the opportunity to get out of your situation. As a result of this, if the opportunity is given to be able to meet her alone, we will be giving her the opportunity to talk, in detail, about what is happening to her.
It is very important, if you see that she begins to isolate herself, saying more and more that she is busy or that she cannot, insist that she stay, or keep calling her. On many occasions we will have to say things that you do not like to hear, always in private and without your partner being around. This is difficult, but we will have some opportunity to be alone and explain to her how we can help her live happily. The clearest sign that abuse may occur is when you tell us that you are afraid of leaving your partner, because of what might happen.
It should be noted throughout the process that as family and friends, we are not experts. You have to try to take her to a women’s association, get in touch with professionals on the subject who will recommend the steps to follow for the specific case, in addition to applying the necessary protocols to prevent the situation from getting worse. These experts in gender violence are the ones who know how to prevent a case of abuse from becoming another number that fuels the terrible number of femicides.
Ruiz-Pérez, I. (sf). Training Program for Trainers in Gender Perspective in Health. Spain. https://www.mscbs.gob.es/ Extracted from https://www.mscbs.gob.es/organizacion/sns/planCalidadSNS/pdf/equidad/04modulo_03.pdf.