People have a difficult time knowing how to serve a domestic abuse survivor. I admit, I’m a contradictory mess of emotions. Sometimes I want to be left alone, but then other times I wonder why no one has come over. Then I remember that I was very secretive about my address when I first moved in, I didn’t want my ex stopping by. It probably gave the impression to the bishop and others that I wanted to hide. There are times I don’t want to answer questions, I don’t want to explain anything if I don’t want to. Often when people serve me I feel this expectation, as if in serving me they are due an explanation of my current difficulties. Add PTSD to this, the fact that ordinary things set me off (flowers remind me of the honeymoon phase of the abuse cycle), and someone who is legitimately interested in selfless service could be frustrated.
If a woman decides to stay with her abuser it becomes a new level of awkward for those who want to help, they don’t understand why she won’t leave. It hurts to continue watching the abuse. But the last thing that woman needs is to be abandoned by her friends because it’s difficult for them to watch. This is the ultimate opportunity to fulfill our baptismal covenant to mourn with those that mourn. Stay by her side and allow her to find her own answers. One of the worst parts of being abused is not having a say in your own life, the last thing a survivor needs is another person in their life telling them what to do.
An LDS friend of mine had a wonderful act of service done for her family. It exemplifies the type of service a survivor needs. It provides concrete aid (food) while giving emotional support without expectation, sharing faith and hope.
“Had a very timely tender mercy today. Its been a crazy, hectic, emotionally draining week. I awoke this morning with a cranky attitude. really feeling discouraged and as if know one even cared about us. I’ve felt so alone and deeply hurt by the betrayal of friends. I’ve been gone most of the day and returned home finding boxes of canned food items, and fresh garden produce with a card and a $100 bill. The card said that even though life is hard for me that they wanted me to know that it will get better and that I have people that love and care about us. All anonymously. This reaffirms to me that prayers are answered . We are being looked after by angels on earth. I am ever so grateful for this tender mercy.”
Please be an angel for an abuse survivor. Don’t get scared, don’t give up, help them survive.