On a matte black surface, many small black question marks lie, among them three red question marks glow.

Survivors need to be given a choice not an ultimatum

Sometimes friends and family give women, who have experienced abuse, ultimatums. For example, “If you move back in with him, I won’t talk to you anymore.” Often when friends and family do this, they think that they are doing some version of “tough love”. Perhaps they are not doing a good job of managing their own fear and so they are trying to take control of the situation to lower their own anxiety about the woman’s safety. Taking such a position with a woman is never helpful. It typically puts her in an impossible situation and leaves her even more isolated. It also means that the friend or family member is behaving somewhat like the partner – very controlling. The woman does not need more controlling people in her life! Women, experiencing abuse need to be given choice. It is one thing their partner does not give them. They need to be respected as the experts on their own life and understood to be making the best decisions they can, at the time, with the options before them.

 

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3 Comments

  1. I feel like a better way to give tough love in this situation might be to say, I love and support you but if you keep going back when we spend time together I cannot keep hearing about the abuse. It is different if the victim never left and can’t leave for what ever reasons. But also make it clear when they are ready to cut contact with the abuser again you will be there for support and to help as best you can. Maybe I am wrong, but I think it is fair to ask for some space around the situation especially if the victim has been fully removed from the abuser and then makes the decision to go back again and again by their own will. I am recently out of an abusive relationship and think I would understand if some of my supports put up boundaries but also showed they would be there for me when I am ready to leave.

  2. However, most of all I would appreciate continuous support, but understand if people need to set some boundaries for their own mental health and safety. I could be totally wrong though.

  3. I believe continuous support is really important. We do not always know all that the woman knows. She will not likely share everything with us. I try to assume that women are making the best choices they can at the time with the information they have and the options that are before them. I do agree with you that support people need to know what they can offer and what might be too much for them. It is never helpful for women if we do more than we feel able to do and then feel resentful.

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