Your friend has told you she’s being abused or you’ve figured it out on your own. What can you do now?
For starters, talk to her. Ask her to meet you away from her house so she feels safe in talking. Listen to her. Give her your full attention. And no matter what she says, don’t act shocked.
As you talk, let her know you care. If you are worried about her, be honest with her. Tell her that she shouldn’t ever have to live this way. Encourage her to get help.
Offer to help her. Don’t just say “If you need me, call me.” Let her know how you can help, and how you are willing to help. If you are willing to be a prayer partner with her, tell her. If you can help her with transportation, with her children, to make plans, financially, or in any other way, tell her. Make your offer clear. That way there’s no misunderstanding and she knows what to expect.
Let her know you are praying for her. Ask her what she needs you to pray for and be faithful to do it.
Let her know that God hates abuse. She may have been told that God hates divorce. She may have been shamed for even thinking about leaving her abuser. She may have been blamed by other Christians for the abuse she is living under. She may have been treated poorly by the church for daring to tell the truth about her abuser. She likely hasn’t been told that God hates what her abuser is doing to her, or that “God hates divorce” is, more often than not, taken out of context. She may not ever know the real love of God, she may never know that genuine Christians can and do care for the abused, if you don’t step up and show her.
If she’s a Christian, be Jesus’s hands to her. If she’s not a Christian, teach her who He is–while being Jesus’s hands to her.
If she is willing to listen, tell her the truth about abuse. She may not understand that her husband’s “anger issues” are actually abuse issues. She may not have been told that her husband will probably never change. She may not have ever been validated by anyone. She may not realize that there can be life outside of abuse.
Just show up. Be her friend. Call her. Text her. Email her. Go by her house and check up on her. Let her know she’s not been forgotten.
Do something practical. Drive her to appointments. Wash her dishes, her clothes, or her car. Buy her an outfit. Help her celebrate her child’s birthday. Remember her at Christmas. Cook her a meal. Pay to put gas in her car.
Ask her what she needs. Make the request genuine. Keep asking.
Do something for her children. Her children are her biggest concern. What they’ve lived through, what they’ve been forced to do without, what they’ve had to endure and might still have to endure is a constant ache in her heart. The very best thing you can do for your friend is to do something to help her children. Love them. Care for them. Check up on them. Validate their pain. Encourage them. Buy them something they need but that she can’t afford. Do something fun for them. Include them in your own family activities whenever possible (for instance, take them on family picnics or when you’re going to the park).
Don’t tell her what to do. Don’t tell her “just leave.” Don’t make her feel bad for not having left. Don’t shame her. Don’t embarrass her by telling her you wouldn’t have put up with “that.” Make sure she knows she’s supported no matter what she chooses to do.
If she decides not to leave, know that she has the right to make that decision. You may not agree with it but she still needs you to support her. She may leave and go back, leave and go back, leave and go back time and time again. You may not understand her decision but know that she still needs you to be there for her. Women stay with their abusers for many reasons. Do whatever you can to help her even if she never leaves her abuser.
If she leaves, remember she is still going to need a friend. She will still struggle. She will lay awake at night crying. She will feel horribly alone at times. She will feel overwhelmed. She will be afraid. She will fear that she’s making poor decisions. She will wonder how she can make it on her own. She will be afraid of her abuser getting revenge. She will fear for all that her children have lived through and all they still have to face. She needs an encouraging word and a helping hand. Don’t forget her. Be there for her.
Remember–You don’t have to do all of this or even most of it in order to be a good friend. Just do what you can and you’ll have done more than most people ever think of doing.