Dear LetterBalm: My friend has been telling me for the past five years that her husband is violent and that he beats her. She and I have been close since high school. She wears makeup and long sleeves to cover bruises and wears sunglasses to work when she has a black eye. She’s fabricated a story that she’s being treated for eye sensitivities. My friend and her husband have no children, and I’ve tried many times to talk with her about leaving him, but she won’t. She makes up excuses – new responsibilities at work, problems with a sibling, an upcoming vacation trip – as to why she has to postpone leaving. I think she never will, but that doesn’t stop my anxiety at her situation. What can I do?
Your friend is so frightened and ambivalent that she’s like a deer caught in the headlights. Ms. L.B. believes she can’t run, yet she knows enough that she should. It’s likely she’s told others – a family member, another friend – about her plight. You can’t assume she has, however. You can only deal with what you know. Tell her that you intend to arm yourself with information about what you can do and how you can take action to protect her. There are many resources, including http://www.thehotline.org (800-799-SAFE). You need to talk with your friend privately. Needless to say, her husband shouldn’t be anywhere in the vicinity nor likely to walk in on your conversation:
Erica, you’ve been telling me for five years that Nathan is violent and beats you. I’ve seen the evidence, and I suspect people are beginning to realize you are in an abusive marriage. You can get away with sunglasses for eye sensitivities and wearing long sleeves in the heat of summer for only so long. My dear friend, I don’t want to hear one day that he’s killed you. You can leave. You’re luckier than a lot of women because you have no children, and you earn enough money to support yourself. I know you’re scared for a host of reasons – being out on your own, retaliation from Nathan – and you are reluctant to take steps. I’ll help you. I’ll get expert information and together we’ll make a plan. But you have to keep this to yourself and agree that you’ll work with me. I know it’s scary, sweetie. But I know you can do it.