How To Help A Friend In An Abusive Relationship

Abusive relationship
I recently shared my story from eleven years ago, of how I was in a relationship that was emotionally, psychologically, and physically abusive. I became a young lady with zero self-esteem; I didn’t think I was loved or could be loved and accepted by anyone else but him. I had two abortions in this relationship, and this also influenced my decision to stick with him because I wasn’t sure any other man would want to get married to a woman who had had abortions. I was stuck in a relationship where I knew I was a shadow of myself, but I had mentally conditioned myself to remain there.

I also had issues with my belief systems. Before the guy actually slapped me, I had mentioned a few times to him that I knew I had a sharp mouth, so maybe he had to beat me to curtail me. Why I would say things like that – even as a joke – baffles me now. But at that time, it was normal to me because I had witnessed abuses and violence in my family, so I was a young girl who had “issues”.

But I’m here now. Eleven years later, strong and confident in who I am in God, and healed from the pain of the past. I now know what I want in a marriage and in the man God gives me and would not settle for less. It has taken me eleven years to get here, and through the help of God.

I shared this story with a friend, and told her that castigating victims of abuse and violence is not the right response to women going through situations like I did. And she asked this question: in retrospect, what would you advise one should do instead to help a loved one leave an abusive situation?

I believe these are a few things we can do instead:

Be More Compassionate

I am a Christian and I understand the scripture that says we are better able to minister to people going through what we had gone through because we can give them the same comfort we had received in the past. It is actually very hard to minister from a place of love if you haven’t been through what the person you are ministering to is going through.

You hear people say things like, “I can’t understand why you are still in that relationship?” Exactly. You can’t understand because you have never been in her shoes. But I promise you that people who have gone through what she is going through can understand.

You can understand the hold abusers have on the abused. You can understand the thoughts they cook up to excuse the abuser’s behaviour. You can understand what issues she is even struggling with about herself. You understand  because you have been there. And this makes you address the issue from a point of compassion, which is really what Jesus does. He doesn’t castigate us for our wrongs. He never says “you should have known better.”

Tell The Person The Truth

The day I was slapped by my ex boyfriend, only one person knew about it: my best friend, Lily. She comforted me and tried her best to give me succour but she never really said outrightly, “leave T. He doesn’t deserve you.”

I knew she was trying to not be too blunt and hurt my feelings because she didn’t know what I could handle in my frail state. I remember when I didn’t even think I was brilliant anymore, Lily had seen my results and said “you even scored B like him too. You are brilliant and can do this.”


Also read: Your Partner Should Never Lie About These 5 Things


She understood what I was going through and tried, in her own way, to make me see my value but she never said, “Frances, leave this guy,” which was what I needed to hear. I knew I was in a bad situation, but I didn’t know if I should leave the relationship or give him another chance. I honestly didn’t know this. I was blinded to how this was the solution. My one request to God was was “God tell me if you want me to leave this relationship or not, tonight”.So the night Jesus delivered me (my strength to leave came in an encounter with Jesus),

I didn’t hear a voice but I felt the love arms of God and someone urging me to stand up, go to my hostel and begin life in Christ, one that my boyfriend wasn’t part of. God’s answer was clear. “Leave this relationship”. He still gave me a choice, He didn’t force me but He told me the truth: “This isn’t what I have for you, leave this relationship.”

I know it’s hard for people to listen when told to leave relationships and, sometimes, that makes the ones around them keep silent and hold their peace. Still, I believe that if I had heard the truth then, it would have been better for me. Let it be that the victims refused your counsel but do not keep quiet. Along with your compassion, tell the truth.

Pray For Them a Lot

My encounter with God, the one that got me out of the relationship was so radical that I knew someone had to have been praying for me eleven years ago.

I was in a fellowship called NIFES where I had lied to all my leaders that I wasn’t dating this guy. I hid it because I knew they wouldn’t approve, but still, they knew. Today, I know someone must have interceded for me. We may aso ask: “what about those who don’t come out of it, was someone not praying for them too?”

I can’t answer that question. What I do know is that prayer works. God can intervene and bring someone out of a situation by orchestrating events to give them a way of escape when we pray. So don’t give up and leave them to their abuser, intercede for them.

Show Them Unconditional Love When They Leave

My best friend, Lily, was there for me. I remember times, after I had broken up with the guy, I hurt so bad I would say so to her. She would encourage me to hold on and not go back. She’d say, “don’t go back, it will pass with time.”

Well, it did pass with time because I filled my time with building up myself. I continued with my studies, and graduated with a 2:1. I started writing again, started a blog, started writing books, began my NGO work, started an NGO, started travelling to different countries, lost a lot of weight and got my health back. Plus I discovered God’s love for me.

Eleven years later and the 18-year-old who was in the mess of an abusive relationship is dead and gone. In her place is an almost 30-year-old who God has helped and is still helping.

So rather than castigate a close friend or family member going through a bad relationship, try a mix of compassionate love and understanding, prayer and truth. Never hesitate to say the truth. Even if that truth is “leave this person, they don’t deserve you” and then pray, offer them all the help they need to make that decision. Be patient with them, and don’t abandon them when they don’t take your advice. Don’t think them fools, and don’t beat them down with words. Just be firm with the truth and constant with your love.


Article by Hephzibah Frances for Bellanaija


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