Esther Company often talks about being in or coming out of an abusive relationship, but what if you aren’t in one yourself, but your close friend or family member is? You may not realize it, but because of the prevalence of domestic abuse being what it is, it is highly likely that you have people in your relatively close circle that are navigating these destructive and very confusing waters. And as you get educated, and learn what to look for, you may even recognize the abuse before the victim does. So, what do you do about it? What is your role as a helper?
First, I think it is so important to remember that you are not the solution, the savior, or the authority in the situation simply because you may see the problem and want to help. Allow your heart to be deeply moved with compassion, as this keeps you in sync with Jesus, but make sure that you stay humble and walk in wisdom so that your words and actions help rather than hurt.
Second, it is critical to remember that each person is on their own timeline with the Lord. You will see this as a recurring theme in what I share, but it is so important that you don’t try to rush or push a timeline. Your role as a helper should be directed by the victim and not the other way around.
Covert abuse is incredibly confusing, subtle, and full of intricacies that seem irrational or illogical if you haven’t lived them. Get Educated so that you can better understand dynamics you might not otherwise have a grid for. In order to grow as a safe place, the best thing you can do is gain understanding. Grow and learn. This could be through blog posts, podcasts, reading books (check out our resources section HERE), or simply listening with an open mind and heart to understand and believe things that you have no grid for or experience with. Be very quick to listen and very slow to speak.
And as you get educated, you will then have resources that you can recommend to those who are ready to learn. One of the best ways to help, beyond listening, is to be able to suggest resources that will bring clarity, that will put words to experience, and that will validate the abuse the victim is experiencing. You should never be pushy in this but stand ready to offer suggestions when the opportunity comes.
This may seem very obvious, but as you walk the journey with a victim of abuse, it is helpful to keep in mind. Depending on where the victim is at in their journey, they could still have years to go of discovery, learning, growing, being strengthened, preparing to separate, moving toward divorce, etc. This is not a linear path and because one of the primary tools in abuse is confusion, this path can be long and winding.
Your role as a helper is to speak truth, be a safe place to process, provide tangible help where possible, and keep showing up as a friend, whether they are doing what you think is best or not. When your support is dependent on them doing what YOU think is best, it has now become about you.
Part of an abusive dynamic is dehumanizing the victim. This dynamic communicates the lies that the victim is incompetent, incapable, inadequate, and crazy (among other things). Their journey needs to allow them space to undo these lies they may have believed so that they can grow in confidence, and only the Lord knows what that timing will be.
One of the greatest ways that you can be a support is to encourage the victim to seek the Lord for next steps and encourage them to obey His leading. These could be big or small steps. But staying in sync with the Lord, and following His direction allows them to stay on the path that is best (as determined by Him). He is faithful. He will lead, provide, confirm, and direct in the areas that are needed. When you try to take the lead, you steal an opportunity for the victim to be led by the Savior, the Rescuer, the One who truly knows what is best and can carry them through whatever may come.
In your role as a helper, you can be a sounding board, you can be a record keeper, you can be a safe place to process, you can be a source of truth, and you may even be a voice that is helping to call out the abuse and point to specific areas that are destructive and not healthy. But always remember, that your role is not to be the expert, the director, or the final word. Leave that to the person and the Lord.
In abusive situations, there is no easy or simple solution. Whether they stay or leave, there will be difficult implications and so it is critical that they are able to proceed with a sense of certainty from the Lord. Sharing your perspective or even giving advice can be helpful in their processing, but ultimately they must follow God’s direction.
So as a helper, be encouraged that you have an opportunity to partner with Jesus in this role. You can truly represent Him in many ways and be a blessing and a support that is desperately needed. Just keep in mind, that if you are close to the victim you also have the potential to hurt them or to make things harder for them. So walk wisely. Seek the Lord’s heart and direction for your steps as well!