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Domestic Violence

Supporting My Friend in an Abusive Relationsh



My friend is engaged to a person that seems to be emotionally abusive. She recognizes that he behaves in ways that are damaging to her emotionally, but he started therapy and she thinks he can change. I`m worried for her safety, and she has become very depressed. How can i support her as she makes a decision about their relationship?


Your friend's depression is a significant warning sign not only of the harmful influence that her fiance's behavior currently has on her, but of how his behavior will adversely affect her over the long run. Empirical research has documented poor mental and social health in the short and long run for women exposed to emotional abuse by their intimate partner. As well, children exposed to their mother's abuse/violence victimization are more likely than other children to develop academic, social and health problems-indicating that abuse creates problems for all members of the family. 

I would recommend that you remain well connected to your friend, even if you sense that she is pulling away. One of the strategies of emotionally abusive individuals is to isolate their victim, so reaching out to your friend on a regular basis to see how she's doing is a very good idea. 

Also, you could recommend that your friend talk with a domestic violence advocate locally (e.g., at Choices) or nationally (e.g., national hotline -From anywhere else in the United States, call toll free 1-800-799-SAFE ). As well, having your friend talk with a mental health professional (e.g., therapist/counselor, social worker) could also help her gain clarity about her situation. Emotional abuse can sometimes be difficult for victims to identify and talk about; talking with a professional could help your friend sort out her feelings and get clarity on her situation. 

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Response by:

Amy E Bonomi, PhD, MPH Amy E Bonomi, PhD, MPH
Former Associate Professor
College of Education and Human Ecology
The Ohio State University