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PTSD on the Homefront: How to Help Your Friend Recover From Domestic Abuse



She’s finally left him, and you can breathe again. 


However, your friend who recently left a physically abusive relationship needs your support more than ever. Studies show that most battered wives will go back to their husbands, sometimes a few times, before they leave for good. Some wives and girlfriends are severely battered and even killed after going back to an abusive partner.


The moment she leaves might seem like the perfect opportunity to take charge of your friend and manage everything for her. According to Psychology Today, that is precisely the wrong tactic, and you must resist it. Your friend feels badly bullied, and you don’t want her to feel she’s getting bullied in her friendships. Here are some tips from Citizen Media News on how you can help your friend recover.


Be Respectful and Helpful


Instead of making demands like “You need to call the police, and then get to a shelter,” you need to ask questions. Questions like, “Would you like me to see what resources are out there to help you?” and “Do you need my help making a safety plan?” and “Would you like me to watch your children while you talk to a lawyer? If she declines, you have to accept that. Suggest, don’t order.


The jury is lamentably out on whether a restraining order against the spouse or boyfriend is a good idea. Most people think a legal order prohibiting the spouse or boyfriend from coming near the victim is a no-brainer. Still, other experts believe it simply escalates hostile emotions and provokes the abuser to violent action.


What we do know is that the first few days after a woman leaves an abusive relationship are the most dangerous days – the days her abuser is most likely to attack her. The two of you will need to give serious thought to whether the assailant is likely to respect a restraining order. Whether he has a gun should definitely be part of this discussion.


It’s also extremely important to be non-judgmental. This is the best way to keep communication lines open. Say nothing about why she was in this relationship in the first place or why she waited so long to leave it. The important thing is that she has left.


Help Her Get to a Safe Place


It IS important for your friend to get to a safe place where her former significant other does not have access to her. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) can be an excellent place to start in finding a shelter or safe apartment.


Suggest a Therapy Dog


Recent research suggests that a therapy dog or an emotional support animal can be an effective friend on the road to emotional and psychological recovery. These dogs not only provide entirely non-judgmental emotional support, but they also provide needed protection so that the victim can feel safe.


Trained therapy dogs can even help with the physiological symptoms of abuse. Science has proven that interacting with a dog can lower blood pressure, for instance, and other physical symptoms of stress.


Help Her Get Settled


Once she finds her own place, please do what you can to help her adjust. Right now, her new home should function as a safe sanctuary. And since she still has a lot of emotions to process, anything that reduces stress at home is crucial. Help her clean and organize her place, bring her a few plants, and stock her fridge with healthy foods and bottled water.


If she’s not ready to purchase a home, help her look for affordable rentals. The easiest way to find a rental is to visit a site like ApartmentGuide.com, which currently lists over 600 Alexandria rentals. You can filter by price, the number of bedrooms, and amenities.


The reasons she got together with him and stayed with him can be very complex and may involve financial motivations, love addiction, and many other messy problems. You will need to accept that the recovery may be riddled with complications also. But, given the proper treatment and support, your friend will eventually find peace and a new lease on life.

Guest post by Julia Merrill of befriendyourdoc.org.  Julia Merrill is a retired board certified nurse practioner.


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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