Help! My friend is being abused and I don’t know what to do

Girl on phoneI’m a member of a local Facebook “For Sale, Wanted or Trade” group. Recently, someone posted that they are concerned about a friend, who they believe is being abused. They asked for advice about what to do.

I was struck by how many people said, “There’s nothing you can do; your friend will have to realize it for herself.” While there is some truth to that, I also think there are some really, really important things that friends can and should do. Even though you can’t rescue your friend from a bad situation, you can:

  • Stay connected as much as you can (in person, text, social media).
  • Continue inviting them to things. It’s harder for your friend’s partner to be abusive when there are witnesses.
  • Check out these tools for talking with folks about their relationship (whether you think they are being hurt or are the one who’s doing harm).
  • Remember that it takes time for most people to figure out if their relationship is not working. And even more time to figure out what they want to do about that. Most folks will try different things to see if the relationship can be saved before deciding to end it.
  • Know that leaving an abusive relationship doesn’t necessarily mean the abuse will end. In some cases, the abuse escalates. If your friend is being abused, encourage her to talk with an advocate at her local domestic violence advocacy program. Advocates will talk to her about how to stay as safe as possible whether she plans to stay or leave.
  • Listen to what your friend says she wants, and help her figure out how to do that. Her abusive partner is trying to control her, so resist the urge to tell her what to do.
  • Take care of yourself. It’s hard to watch a loved one be mistreated!

 

Special delivery

I’ll admit it. It’s a work day, and I am goofing off. It’s one of those days where every task looks either insurmountably difficult or just too eye-rollingly boring. I pick things up and put them down again and again. Do you ever have days like that, or is it just me?

Super frustrated, I wander down the street for some caffeine. Maybe a reset will help.

Coffee in hand, and still not convinced I have it in me to get a single useful thing done, I follow a delivery guy back into my building. He holds the elevator door for me.

I study the four boxes on his handcart. They’re for us! Inside squeal. I know what these are. Things are definitely looking up now.

I start talking with the guy. I talk to everyone. This works exceptionally well for me because I have no children to embarrass.

So while I’m yammering with the delivery dude, I unlock and hold open the door. He hands me the electronic thingie to sign and he says, “So what do you guys do here anyway?”

Me: (blah blah blah my brief and generic answer about what one would do at a domestic violence coalition if one were not goofing off.)

Him: “I ask ‘cause I’m the victim.”

Me: (nonverbal tell me more signals)

Him: “Well, I’m really kind of on both sides.”

Me: (more nonverbal now-we’re-on-the-right-track signals)

Him: “Do you have places to send people? Like counselors? I mean I’m willing to be accountable for what happened. She’s not, but I am.”

Me: (Wow, he actually said the word accountable. I wonder where he learned that word and what he means by it?) “Well, you can only be responsible for yourself. You can’t control other people.”

Him: (Surprisingly knowing nod.)

Me: “SafePlace knows a lot more than me about who the good counselor folks are in town. Give them a call.”

Him: “It was my drinking.”

Me: (more sympathetic signals) “Yup, all those things get tangled up with each other.”

Him: “Yeah, I got 90 days.” (From the context, I assume he means sober, not jail time.)

Me: “That’s great! You have kids?”

Him: “Four. They’re proud of me. 90 days.” (I’m right, sober.)

Me: “Yeah, grownups need to get their acts together for their kids.”

Him: “Yeah.” (Gathering up his stuff.)

Me: “Really, call SafePlace. They’ll be able to help you. Good luck and hang in there.”

Him: (Friendly departure.)

Still wondering what was in the boxes that I was so excited about? Irony of ironies, and honest for real. Here’s what he was delivering: How’s Your Relationship? Conversations with someone about their abusive behavior.

cards in box

This weekend, we gave 1,500 sets of these cards out to the crowd of people who showed up to run or walk or volunteer at the Goodwill Refuse To Abuse® 5K at Safeco Field.

My fondest wish is that you hear my story of the delivery dude and imagine that you can have a conversation this casual and kind. Support your friends, brothers, or delivery guys to take tiny steps. Help them because you can. Talk so they’ll figure out what they are doing that hurts themselves and others and how to turn it around. You can do it!

P.S. Feeling inspired to donate some money to this prevention campaign? Here’s a link to the fundraising page I set up for the Goodwill Refuse To Abuse® 5K. Donate today!

It starts with love

Recently I have been recapturing my glory days. Around the time I had two kids under the age of five, my mom asked me how I was doing. While I felt like things were going pretty well―I love my family and my job―I found myself saying, “I am totally happy and grateful and all that jazz but I feel like I am treading water. I don’t know what I’m missing, but I am missing something.” A few days later she called and told that she wanted to buy me a membership at the local tennis club. I hadn’t even picked up a racquet in 15 years! I had all the excuses: I was too busy, it was too expensive, I would be terrible. But she persisted (mother knows best) and encouraged me to do it anyway. Well four years later I have reclaimed my youthful love for tennis (and trophies). As it turns out, it was just what I needed.

Tennis TrophyNow, I don’t spend all my time playing tennis of course. I also spend a lot of time thinking about relationships, and what it takes to make them work. It turns out that everything you ever wanted to learn about relationships, you can learn from tennis:

In tennis love means nothing (actually zero). It’s not that love isn’t important, it’s that that is the starting point for everything else. If you want to play, you’ve got to start with love.

Tennis is a sport where you have to actually win (or lose) the final point. Time doesn’t run out―you keep playing until it’s over. That means you have to be committed. You can’t just wait it out, you have to engage.

In tennis, you always have a chance to come back. Because time never runs out, you’ve always got a chance to make things right. You can start doing things differently. If your groundstrokes from the baseline aren’t working, come to the net more. If your powerful returns aren’t getting you going, try lobbing. Just like in relationships you can try something new/different.

Tennis is fun. Or it should be. If you’re not enjoying yourself, take a deep breath and remember what you love about it and try again. Relationships are the same deal. If you’re not feeling good about things, pause and remember the good stuff and see if you can get back there. And if you can’t, it’s ok to lay down your racquet and play another day.

I love what I’ve learned from tennis and am so appreciative that I have come back to it. It has reminded me of who I am (and want to be) at my core―a powerful woman who starts with love in everything I do.

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

What It Looks Like When A University Truly Fixes How It Handles Sexual Assault “Could institutionally courageous statements and actions actually lessen the impact of sexual assault? Are some of these statements not just good PR, but actually public health intervention?”

Trauma Survival is Messy: Can We Have Good Memories of Our Abusers? “We had catches phrases and silly moments — lots of them. We had inside jokes about everything from soup to laundry. We went bowling and out to dinner. He was an incredible gift giver…. I don’t want to erase seven years of my life and I shouldn’t have to just because bystanders can’t understand that trauma victims — like all human beings — are capable of holding simultaneous, conflicting feelings and thoughts.”

How one professional baseball player from Venezuela gives back “Félix works closely with youth in the Seattle area promoting the power of education. He is also a voice for the Refuse To Abuse® campaign which raises awareness to prevent domestic violence toward women — an issue ignored by male sports leagues in the US for too long.”

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

13 Questions to Ask Before Getting Married Whether because of shyness, disinterest or a desire to preserve romantic mystery, many couples do not ask each other the difficult questions that can help build the foundation for a stable marriage, according to relationship experts.

Samantha Bee has opinions about untested rape kits. (explicit language)

News you can relate to

Some stories that caught our eye this week:

The Oscar-Winning Movie That’s Actually Making Things Better for Women “This is what happens when determined women get together,” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy said during her Oscars acceptance speech, “The Pakistani prime minister said he will change the law on honor killings after watching this film,” she added. “That is the power of film.”

5 Things We Learned About Domestic Violence From the O.J. Simpson Trial “After Nicole Brown was murdered in her home in Los Angeles while her children were asleep upstairs, it was revealed that she had documented over 17 years of verbal, mental, physical and emotional abuse suffered during her relationship and marriage.”

As Rental Prices Rise, Women Stay In Bad Relationships to Survive “These scenarios run the gambit from “we’re not in love, but I suppose this will do until my next paycheck” to the much more frightening situation of living with an abusive partner and being too broke to move out.”

Is Laundry Only a Woman’s Job? This detergent company asks men to #ShareTheLoad

Wisdom from the Biebs?

Sometimes, when I’ve been working on a particularly challenging project, I like to reward myself by watching a video from Urban Dance Camp . (Seriously, if you have not checked them out, do it now, I’ll wait.) That is how I came to love the dancing couple and choreographers Keone and Mari Madrid. So when I heard that they did Justin Bieber’s new video, I had to check it out. No surprise I loved the dancing but I was also struck by the lyrics. They are actually pretty wise.

Love Yourself lays out a pretty solid checklist of when you might consider walking away from a crappy relationship:

Lyrics Takeaway
For all the times that you rain on my parade Not cool – you want your partner to throw you a parade, not rain on it!
My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone When people who love and care about you don’t like your partner that may be something to listen to.
And when you told me that you hated my friends
The only problem was with you and not them
Honestly if your partner doesn’t like your friends, they may not actually like the real you either. And why would you stay with someone who doesn’t like you or wants to keep you away from your friends?
And every time you told me my opinion was wrong
And tried to make me forget where I came from
Having differences of opinions is fine, but telling someone they’re wrong or to forget their roots isn’t great.
For all the times that you made me feel small
I fell in love. Now I feel nothin’ at all
Your partner should build you up, not break you down. No wonder you fell out of love!

 

When your relationship makes you feel this way, it’s a pretty good idea to move on. And “you should go and love yourself” is a pretty good way to end things.

Way to go, Biebs!

Some advice

List from Excellent to The Worst with a checkmark next to The WorstThe moment I announced my pregnancy it began: the crazy comments from close friends and strangers alike. What I should do, what I should eat, and how my body looks. Like when my friend leaned across the table and whispered in my ear, “You shouldn’t eat that ceviche because it might kill your baby.” This was one of the first things she said to me after I told her the news!

I like to believe that it all comes from a well-intentioned place. When people don’t know what to say, sometimes they say things that are wrong and unhelpful. I’ve had to deal with this for seven months and it’s infuriating.  It makes me think about survivors I’ve worked with in the past. When they tell their friends and family about the violence in their lives,  they don’t always get the best response or support. The unfortunate outcome is that people walk away from conversations feeling further isolated, misunderstood, or judged. Not the end result either party wants.

So here are some tips on how to support your loved ones in good times and bad:

  • Acknowledge what the person told you and what they are experiencing.
  • Ask how you can provide support.
  • Tell them you are there for them no matter what.
  • Ask if they want advice before you give any.
  • Think about what you are about to say. Is it helpful? Will it come across as supportive?

It’s okay to not have the perfect response. Being a good listener is sometimes worth a thousand words.

A new kind of New Year’s resolutions

2016 in sparklersEat healthier, read more, save money, get organized. Welcome to 2016 and New Year’s resolutions! I have been a sucker for resolutions for a long time and like many who make them, I break them.

My resolutions for 2016 weren’t going to skew much from the traditional list. Then I received news that one of my friends had been killed in a tragic car accident. The day after Christmas my family went to her memorial service. It was one of the saddest, raw, and full experiences I’ve had in a long time. People shared stories about Katie, how she had impacted the lives of her students, her family and friends, and her community. No one talked about how healthy she ate, how much she read, how organized she was. It’s because at the end of the day that’s not what matters.

So this year my resolutions are different:

  • Tell the people who I love how I feel about them
  • Be kind to myself and others
  • Listen and connect deeply with those in my life

Looking at these resolutions, I realize that it’s really all about relationships. If we were all to prioritize these things, it would not only make our own lives better, but it would help anyone in our lives who is experiencing abuse. A person who is being abused most needs to hear that she is loved, that she deserves kindness, and that you will stay connected with her no matter what.

Desacelerando (Slow down)

Tengo la mala costumbre de tratar de hacer demasiado, en poco tiempo. Nadie puede decir que no soy eficaz. Sin embargo, vivir de prisa simplemente me ha evitado disfrutar y estar presente en muchos momentos, momentos que pasan y no suelen repetirse.

to-do-list-breath-inHace unos meses, mi hijo de 7 años me compartió algo que estaban practicando en la escuela, me trajo un velocímetro con tres niveles: el nivel azul, cuando esta uno sumamente tranquilo; el nivel verde cuando uno está en la velocidad adecuada; y el nivel rojo, cuando uno está acelerado. Los dos nos pusimos a practicar nuestros niveles de velocidad. O sorpresa, más de una vez escuche, “mama, estas en rojo, ¿cuál es la prisa?”. En ese momento, entendí el  como estoy viviendo mi vida.

El estar viviendo en ‘rojo’ me hace sentir saturada, cansada, mi creatividad disminuye, pero lo más triste es que mis relaciones personales se ven afectadas también. No dedico tiempo de calidad y muchas veces debido a todo lo anterior estoy irritable, o impaciente. Y esto está escalando, no tiene mucho deje comida en la estufa mientras salía a hacer unos mandados. ¿En qué estaba pensando? Gracias a los bomberos y excelentes vecinos no pasó a mayores.

Mi tranquilidad mental y espiritualidad definitivamente se han visto afectadas también. Por un lado quiero vivir en armonía, feliz, disfrutando cada instante tanto con mi familia como en mi trabajo y por otro lado me saturo a más no poder, hago, hago y hago pero no vivo, no estoy presente, estoy en piloto automático siempre haciendo o produciendo algo. Esto tiene que parar, quiero y estoy dispuesta a cambiar esto. Una amiga sabia me sugirió empezar con cosas pequeñas, como tres minutos de yoga al día, detenerme constantemente y hacer respiraciones profundas, alimentarme bien, tratar de ir a la cama a buena hora.

Todavía me cacho en rojo más de una vez al día, pero por lo menos ya estoy más consciente de esos momentos. Cada día es un nuevo empezar, una oportunidad a ser mejor. Día a día continuaré siendo consciente de mi velocidad y la ajustaré cuantas veces sea necesario. Te invito a hacer lo mismo, no perdemos nada y podemos ganar mucho!

****

I have a bad habit of trying to do too much in a short period of time. No one can say I’m not effective. However, living in a hurry has kept me from enjoying and being present in many moments; moments that I can never get back.

A few months ago, my seven-year-old son shared with me a tool they were using at his school; he brought home a speedometer with three levels: the blue level, when you are very calm; green when you’re at the right speed; and the red level, when you are in a hurry. We immediately set out to practice our speed levels at home. Surprise! More than once I heard, “Mom, you are in the red, what’s the hurry?” Right then, I realized the problem with how I’ve been living my life.

Living in the red makes me feel saturated, tired, and less creative. But the saddest part is that my personal relationships are affected as well. I do not spend quality time with those I love and many times, due to all of the above, I am irritable or impatient. And this is escalating—not too long ago, I left food on the stove while I went to do some errands. What was I thinking? Thanks to firefighters and great neighbors, it did not get as bad as it could have been.

My spirituality has definitely been affected as well. On one hand, I want to live in harmony, happiness, enjoying every moment, both with my family and my work. But on the other hand, I saturate myself to the top and I do and do without living. I am not in the present—I am living on autopilot, always producing or doing something. This has to stop. I want and am willing to change this. A wise friend suggested I start with small things: like three minutes of yoga during my day; pause often and take deep breaths; eat well and try to go to bed early.

I still catch myself in a hurry more than once a day, but at least now I am more aware of these moments. Every day is a beginning, a chance to be better. I will continue to be aware of my speed and I will adjust it as many times as necessary. I invite you to do the same—we can’t really lose anything and we can gain a lot!