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Originally published Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 5:05 AM

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A friend’s lifeline to a victim of spouse abuse

Readers chime in on how best to support a friend in an abusive relationship, negative people, and assumptions about single women.

Syndicated columnist

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Dear Carolyn

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On helping a friend who is being abused:

After slowly being isolated from all friends and family — in short, everyone who made or was likely to make any comment about what a jerk my then-husband was to me — I had one single friend left, a particularly astute woman who was very familiar with abuse victims.

She focused all attention on him when the three of us were together, thereby feeding his ego and need to feel powerful, which ensured he would not sever the connection and would allow her to have time alone with me.

When we were alone, she bolstered my failing belief in myself. And, critically for me, on two occasions she simply said, “If you ever need a place to go, for whatever reason, whatever the time, come to me.” She offered no explanation and made no critical comment. She was simply there and made me feel as if she truly cared.

One evening he hit that particular nerve that stung just a bit too much. I stood up, walked out of the house and into my car, and drove a few houses down the street before I stopped and wondered where I was going.

The words I barely heard and had never really thought about suddenly were there. I called that woman and, of course, she opened her home to me. From that moment forward, my road to freedom began. She provided a nonjudgmental avenue of escape for a lifetime.

— C.

On people who have nothing nice to say about others:

My mother was like that — she never said a nice thing if she had the opportunity to belittle someone in public. One day I had an insight and said, “Mom, you know when you talk like that it makes people sympathetic to Dad and they just think you’re sort of a witch.”

She went really silent ... and never did it again.

People who continually put someone down are doing that oftentimes to push themselves up. However, the long-term effect is usually the opposite of what they intend. It’s a voluntary behavior that might have had some illusory psychic benefit at some time, but has now become a bad habit.

— A.

On “available” women:

In a recent column, a husband had a crush on a woman the wife described as “pretty” and “available.”

“Available” to whom? To the married man? Does single status imply that a woman would make herself available to a married man? I, and my single friends, see it otherwise. None of us would consider ourselves “available” to any man who wasn’t himself “available.”

This wife’s choice of words implies that she believes that men can more easily “have” single women on whom they have a crush than married ones. Certainly we have plenty of evidence that married men fall for the wives of other men; yet the wife who wrote you implies that she would have been more comfortable had the object of her husband’s crush been married or otherwise “taken” — as if a married or “taken” woman is better positioned to resist him. Insulting.

— Annoyed by stereotypes

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax. Find her columns daily at www.seattletimes.com/living

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