Happy Halloween! Today is also the last day of Domestic Abuse Awareness Month. Joanna V. Hunter, author of But He’ll Change: End the Thinking That Keeps You in an Abusive Relationship, is here to share the things that you can do to help a friend or family member if you suspect abuse. Joanna is a survivor who understands the intricacies and complications involved with abusive relationships. She now helps educate both victims and the general public.
Joanna writes under a pseudonym and I will not be showing her photo. Here is a bit about this inspiring woman:
Joanna Hunter is a survivor who wrote the book she needed when she was recovering from her own violent relationship. She is a popular speaker, volunteer and trainer on domestic violence. You can learn more about Joanna, her work and her writing in the following places:
Before we get to Joanna’s words of advice, I want to show off her book. I know many women who might have chosen different options for their lives had they read Joanna’s book. And for those women who have experienced abuse of any sort, this book is a wonderful healing tool. No one should suffer alone.
In this compassionate book written for victims of domestic violence, Joanna V. Hunter helps women face, head on, the excuses they tell themselves that keep them in abusive relationships. Using expert advice complemented by her story and the stories of dozens of other women who have survived and turned away from domestic violence, Hunter teaches women to
identify the lies they’ve accepted
understand what healthy thinking sounds like
give themselves permission to stop taking the blame for their partners’ behavior
identify power and control plays
stick up for their own needs and plan for their safety
‘Healing from abuse means you’ve taken back your power . . . My hope is that this book will help you shed labels, transcend the past, and walk into a better life—the one you’ve always hoped for.’ Readers will develop the tools to operate not as victims, but as survivors, understanding the power that they hold to change their lives.
Now I am honored to share Joanna’s words of wisdom:
Abuse is the systematic suffocation of another person’s spirit. It’s about power and control. One person holds all the power and uses it to control the other. We call this domestic violence, domestic abuse, or intimate partner violence. Three names for one horrific living condition.
The Center for Disease Control reports approximately 4.8 million women and 2.9 million men experience violence at the hand of their partner. We can make a difference by paying attention to the people around us and reaching out. The questions most asked are, “How do I do that? What do I say?”
Most important, if you witness physical violence call 911, immediately.
Some behaviors that may indicate your friend or coworker is being abused are:
• Is often late or cancels an engagement with you last minute.
• Normally outgoing, becomes quiet around partner.
• Has low self-esteem.
• Wears long sleeves and turtlenecks in warm seasons.
• Wears sunglasses indoors.
• Is often sick for several days or weeks in a row and can’t come to work or see you.
• Receives frequent calls from her partner every day.
• Is often heard trying to calm or assure her partner over the phone.
• Has a partner that shows up unexpectedly at her job or when she is out with you.
• Never socializes with other co-workers or attends work parties or functions.
• Is seeing you less and less often.
Victims are afraid someone will ask what is happening to them. They are also afraid that no one will.
You can help by being prepared. Find out about the women’s shelter in your area and have the phone number on hand. Take your friend or co-worker aside and tell her you’re concerned for her. You have seen and heard things that lead you to believe that she is living in a stressful (don’t use the word – abuse- it will scare her away) situation. Tell her you care about her and that you feel she deserves to be treated better. Offer her the phone number to the shelter (write it on some innocuous business card or random pamphlet.) Tell her that she can call and talk to someone who is a compassionate listener and able make helpful suggestions. It doesn’t mean she has to leave her partner or go to the shelter. She can use the shelter’s services (i.e. support groups, legal advocates) even if she doesn’t stay there. Shelter personnel will not force her to do anything she’s not ready to do. And neither should you. It takes on average 7 attempts to leave an abusive relationship. Patience and acceptance on your part are paramount.
Your friend or co-worker may deny everything and make excuses for what you’ve witnessed. In violent relationships secrecy is a rule. Breaking that edict means severe consequences for the victim. If she denies anything is happening, don’t argue. Tell her you care about her and if something comes up and she’d like to talk, you’re available. Just plant the seed.
If your friend or co-worker denies what is happening, there are still things that you can do. Keep a record on a calendar of any missed days, odd behavior, bruises or injuries you notice. Note where the bruising is on her body and its approximate size. Should she eventually press charges against her abuser, your documentation can help prove this is domestic violence, a pattern of on-going abuse, resulting in a longer sentence for the offender. Otherwise, the court may feel this is a one-time incident and only give the abuser a slap on the hand.
If your friend discloses to you that she’s in an stressful or abusive relationship, you can do some safety planning with her. She can:
• Set up a code word that she can use to tell you she needs help, call the police.
• Gather important papers and records (i.e. birth certificates, social security card, bank accounts) and keep them in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or with a friend or trusted relative.
• Keep an extra set of car keys hidden outside the house should she have to make an quick escape.
• Pack clothing and some cash in a suitcase and leave it with a friend or relative.
• Let you know where she is going and when she is expected to return. If she doesn’t show up when expected, contact the police.
The shelter in her area can give her more safety planning suggestions.
It’s stressful to help a victim of domestic abuse. If you feel overwhelmed, you can contact the shelter in your area or the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800.799.7233.) They will support and guide you as you help the victim.
Your friend has to do the work to take back her power, you cannot do it for her. All you need to be is someone who cares about her, reminds her that she is a good person and speaks the truth: She deserves to be loved and cherished by the people in her life.
Joanna’s book can be purchased on Amazon, in both print and Kindle format. This could be the best gift you ever give yourself or someone you love.
One in four women experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Chances are, you either are one of those women or you know one. I hope you’ll keep in mind the information Joanna has shared with us today.
Do you need help or know someone who does?
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence provides anonymous and confidential help 24/7:
Thanks for reading.