When your sister, daughter, mother, or friend is suffering from the effects of emotional abuse and betrayal trauma, it may be difficult to know how to support her. While her devastation and pain may seem unreachable to you, you can be an instrument in helping her find a degree of peace and stability.
Believe the Victim
At BTR, we understand firsthand the power that comes from believing the victim. Questioning her on facts, dates, her own feelings, or the reasons behind why she chose to stay, leave, wait, or any other choices that she made, come across as disbelieving her, even if your intent is just to understand.
Rather than ask scrutinizing question, ask empathetic questions.
Empathetic Questions to Ask a Victim of Emotional Abuse
- How did you feel when that happened?
- What is your level of safety today?
- What can we do to make sure that you get rest tonight?
- Are your physical needs being met? If not, what can we do to help you (eat, sleep, exercise) etc.?
- Can you tell me more about that situation?
- Do you want to tell me more about how you felt during that time?
There Aren’t Two Sides: There Is The Truth.
Often, supporters of the victim will fall into the trap of the old saying that “there are two sides to every story” or “it takes two to tango”. In the case of abusive relationships, there are NOT two sides to the story. There is only an abuser and the victim. There is nothing a victim can do to “push” an abuser into harming her and/or her children. By implying that she is somehow even partially responsible for the abuse in her life, you are blaming her for the trauma that she is now enduring.
Abusive Men Lie
It’s a fact. Abusive men are notoriously dishonest while victims of sexual trauma, emotional abuse, and betrayal generally tell the truth. The fog of trauma makes certain facts difficult for women to remember: she may not get every date or time of day that an incident occurred exactly correct. This is a scientifically proven phenomenon with victims of trauma: the trauma itself makes memory-recall of this specific information difficult. Be patient with her and don’t discount the truth because her trauma is blocking her from remembering details of the abuse.
Victims of Emotional Abuse Are in Severe Trauma
Betrayal trauma is similar to Rape Trauma Syndrome and PTSD: it’s severe and can be debilitating. Be understanding, be empathetic.
If You Aren’t Her Ally, You’re His Enabler
When family members and friends choose to stay neutral, by default, they become enablers of abuse. The age-old stand by of “not picking sides” when families are broken apart by separation or divorce simply doesn’t work in cases of abuse. When women and children are abused, they need family and friends to rally around them.
How Can You Be Her Ally?
- Set a no-contact boundary with the abuser. This means that you block him on your phone, don’t read his emails, and don’t invite him into your home. Narcissistic abusers are notoriously manipulative and may try to “turn” you to their side.
- Regularly check in with the victim and reassure her that you believe her and that you are not associating with her abuser until he becomes a safe person (and she is the only person who can make that call)
- Assure the victim that you are not giving the abuser the opportunity to “turn” you over to his side
- If you hear others defending the abuser, putting the victim down, or downplaying the abuse, stand up for the victim and her children and be an advocate for the truth
BTR.ORG Supports Victims of Abuse
At BTR, we believe that support is instrumental in a woman’s ability to heal from the scars of emotional abuse and betrayal trauma. Family and friends play a key role in this process.
Consider offering the victim in your life the opportunity to attend BTR.ORG Group Sessions so that she can process her trauma with other women who have had the same experiences that she has had.