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On Not Being a Martyr

May 9, 2011

If you are a woman without very much yourself and you try to help another woman who is entangled in an abusive relationship, you really cannot do anything for her until she leaves him, –and stays away from him, 100% away from him.  There can be no attempts at reconciling her “wishes” with her reality.  For example, she cannot afford to wish that they could just be a happy couple.  By this point, all room for fantasy has been depleted.

It is obvious that he (the abuser) wants his victim to be isolated, and isolated is what happens.  It happens because people around her, even though they know she is being abused, can only take so much mentally themselves.  Eventually the helper has to detach.  The helper cannot keep throwing money at her, especially money that is hard to come by, if she does not use it to stay away from him.

Although this makes the victim more isolated, what can a helper do?

However, I am sure women who have not helped enough will use my words as excuse not to help.  There has to be honest self-assessment combined with self-preservation.

  1. May 10, 2011 6:12 am

    Sometimes all a helper can do is be there if they choose to leave.

    Don’t enable the victim to stay by giving them too much.

    Its shitty but what can you do? Kill him?

    If only the so-called justice system saw it that way.

  2. Mary Sunshine permalink
    May 10, 2011 10:54 am

    The woman who has been offering assistance could adopt the following strategy.

    Every time the abused woman appeals for money, the assister can place an affordable amount of money in a designated savings account, held by the assister. i.e. in the assister’s name, and not immediately accessible to the abused woman.

    The helper can then inform the abused of what she has done. The helper can explain to the abused that if and when the abused decides to leave the abuser, for once and for all, with an order of protection in place, then the helper will, under power of her own signature, apply that amount to the rent of secure premises.

    Nothing can be accomplished until the abused develops her own willpower.

  3. May 11, 2011 1:14 am

    The fact is it is incredibly hard to leave an abusive man. Emotionally the ties may be cut, she may well be scared for her life and her children, however without money and a safe place to go she is trapped.

    Rather than someone who does not have a lot of money themselves, offering money to the woman, offering sanctuary, even helping her with some basic food and sanitary needs is a huge help. Women`s shelters can be tough places to live in, but they will not see a woman or her children starve, and will put a roof over her head. Be supportive and non judgemental. Women who are trying to flee need support and love, and not to feel like they are alone, or to blame.

    It is a huge challenge to leave, and even harder to make it work. If a woman cant afford to help with money, then helping her get help, childcare, even just someone to listen to her helps so much.

    Even talking about willpower, when a woman has made that jump and is living in fear of where she is going to live, and what she is going to eat, let alone the fear for her children, seems to be putting the blame onto the victim. It is not her fault, she is not lacking somehow because she has become prey to some abusive man.

    • May 11, 2011 4:04 am

      Although I can appreciate your concern for the abused, it cannot be assumed that the person willing to help is less abused or has not been abused. Actually, I would say what makes another person (a woman) sympathetic and/or empathetic to an abused woman is her own history of abuse. Therefore, that woman must take care and protect herself and know when it is best to detach herself.

      This post is centered on the person wanting to help and is having reservations, not about the abused.

      Also there is something to be said about how we only think of the abused. Not that the abused should not be thought of, but how it automatically becomes a hierarchy. This takes me back to my first sentence in this comment. One cannot assumed the person who is attempting to help is not triggered by the abuse or isn’t being abused as well. I can imagine being abused and helping someone who is being abused at the same time.

  4. May 11, 2011 4:48 am

    I spent years of my life in and out of women`s refuges, being hunted down like some animal by an abusive man. Having the courts also help him perpetuate his abuse, and being judged by everyone around me as somehow being lacking.

    All I wanted to do was survive and to get through it with my children safe and by my side. To survive I had to accept all the help I could get.

    The thing that helped me most was the kindness of strangers. Of women I did not know. I never had any hope of repaying people who helped me, my life was in tatters due to this man.

    Ive had women who have next to nothing, in a shelter with me, offer to share their meal, or help me find clothes for my children. In fact the most humane help, and the least judgemental was from other women who had been abused.

    Very few abused women actually want to continue contact with an abusive man, in my experience, but other factors – especially money, and the courts make it so so hard to make a life away.

    Im a strong, well educated, bright woman. I love my children, it hurt more than the blows of the man that hurt me, that other women would judge me and question my motives because of the behavior of a man I trusted. Somehow some of his dirt rubbed off on me, and made me less trustworthy.

    I know how scary it is to leave a house, with children in tow, and not know where we will be sleeping that night. I know what it is like to have no money in my pocket, and no food, and try desperately to work out how I survive without the man I was married to – just physically make it through.

    Whilst throwing money at the problem will not help, being a trustworthy, non judgemental and supportive friend will.

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