Abuse is everyone’s business

Dear Jennifer,

I think my roommate is being physically abused by her boyfriend.

I brought it up before with her, but she dodged the conversation. The guy plays off as a sweet and romantic boyfriend whenever he visits, and I can’t say that I’ve ever seen him be violent with her, but it’s one of those gut feelings when you know what you’re assuming is true. (Coming home with bruises and crying after she goes out with him says quite a lot, don’t you think?)

I’m debating whether I should back off or if I should say something. She’s from out of state so I can’t contact her family and she doesn’t have too many friends, so I kind of feel like I should watch out for her.

I realize that it’s totally none of my business to get involved, but I really am worried.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Worried,

If you saw a car accident, would you hesitate to call 911?

If someone had a seizure right in front of you, would you keep walking?

This situation is serious, dangerous and absolutely your business.

When you see someone in trouble, it is not only your business but your obligation to help him or her.

Both your gut feeling and the physical clues indicate that there is a problem here and it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

I talked to someone at the Women’s Resource Center who has experience with victims of domestic violence about your situation. In other words, this advice comes in part from someone who knows what she is talking about. With that said, let’s look at the situation:

Your roommate doesn’t have many friends or family around and may feel lonely. Nothing is going to cure her loneliness faster than a boyfriend-no matter how unhealthy their relationship.

It will be difficult to convince her to leave him, since she may-as strange as this might sound-take comfort in the relationship and even feel lucky to have him. The abuse (which we will assume is taking place) has probably made her insecure.

She may even feel embarrassed in front of you-worried that you think she is stupid for staying with someone who abuses her.

You are going to want to do everything possible to not harm her self-esteem further. You need to approach her again, but do it causally. This may seem odd, but you don’t want her to feel judged and get defensive.

Say something like, “It may seem like I am tripping out about this, but if you ever want to talk to me about (insert her boyfriend’s name), I’m always here to listen.”

That way you have opened the door and hopefully have made her comfortable enough to talk to you. If she resists, be persistent, but not pushy. Try to forge a closer relationship with her-hang out more, talk more. It will be easier for her to open up to you, and eventually leave the abusive situation, if she feels supported.

If the problem persists and she refuses to do anything about it, contact a professional at the Women’s Resource Center, University Counseling Center or the YWCA for further advice.

Don’t stop trying to help her until the problem is resolved. Situations like this only get worse. Be a friend. She is lucky to have you.

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