Annie’s Mailbox for May 17, 2011: Don’t know how to help friend in abusive relationship
May 17, 2011
Dear Annie: I have a dear friend who has been in an abusive relationship for many years. The abuse is mostly verbal, but occasionally physical. Apparently, this has been going on for their entire 23-year relationship.
When she would temporarily leave him, I would be very supportive, cheering her on when she took his name off of titles and deeds. When she bailed him out of jail and paid his medical bills, I tsk-tsked. I have stood by her, but have always spoken my piece.
However, a recent incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Visiting friends saw the estranged husband come by and push and shove my friend to the ground. She was screaming. She managed to get him out of the house, and there were six witnesses to this abuse.
Now, a week later, he’s back home. How can I help her? I’ve told her to file a restraining order. I’ve told her to put her foot down. I’ve given her many positive suggestions that she knows she must do but hasn’t. In my last conversation with her, I said, “If he kills you, you don’t get another chance. Get RID of him.”
If I can’t help her, can I do something else? Are there support groups for friends like me who want to help and could use some resources for empowerment?
— Worried in Florida
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Dear Florida: Abusive relationships are complicated. Expecting the victim to simply walk out of a long-term marriage is often unrealistic and can be dangerous, especially if the partner is physically abusive. Please understand that the strength to leave must come from her, and you are not responsible for her choices. But your encouragement and support can be enormously helpful. The best resource is the National Domestic Violence Hotline (ndvh.org) at 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233).
Dear Annie: I am a mostly normal freshman in high school. I am slightly Goth and don’t do sports, but I am in drama club. I found out the other day that a group of kids thinks I am bisexual or a lesbian.
When I was younger, I had issues with girls calling me a boy because of the way I dressed, so stuff like this really hurts. In fact, I started cutting myself with pen caps. I know this gossip should not affect me so much. Am I overly sensitive, or is there something wrong with me?
— Not Bi, Not Emo
Dear Not Bi: If these kids are teasing you about your looks or sexuality, it is bullying and should be reported. The cutting, however, indicates anxiety and stress, and can become habitual and difficult to stop. You need to find more effective and less harmful ways of dealing with your situation. Talk to your parents and your school counselor, check out kidshealth.org, and keep your friends close by.
Dear Annie: I am responding to “Kentucky,” who had her name changed and her parents refuse to call her by her chosen name.
I could have written that letter. At the age of 28, I changed my first name partly because it was frequently misspelled and mispronounced and considered “odd” and “difficult” by teachers and business associates. When I was 18, I received a draft notice because the government couldn’t tell whether my name was male or female.
Everyone I knew applauded the change and honored my request to be called by my new name, except my parents. It took nearly 25 years before my parents accepted it. My mother was quite insulted that I didn’t love my given name like she did.
You were right to tell “Kentucky” not to count on her family coming around. She shouldn’t push it. Either they will accept the new name or they won’t. She is the only one who can decide whether it’s worth making a big deal out of it.