Dear Dr. Eve
I have noticed changes in my best friend. I’m worried about her and not
sure how to approach this with her. I think she may be in an abusive
As I follow you on radio and social media I know you’re going to ask me
some questions, so I’m going to give you a list of what I’ve noticed.
– Her partner doesn’t like it when she spends time with me.
– She’s dressing very differently.
– She always cancels plans at the last minute.
– I can see she is often unhappy.
– I feel uncomfortable with her partner.
– Yes, I’ve seen some bruises.
– The way he speaks to her is terrible – swears speaks down to her,
– She always puts him first, never does anything nice for herself any
– He always bad mouths his ex’s calls them “crazy “ blames them
– She denies there is a problem, says she really loves him and is
I need your guidance on what to do. I don’t want to be what you call a
“bystander”. Do I go to the Police? Tell her family? Talk sense to her
DR EVE REPLIES :
You are not a “bystander “ .. you are a star.. for noticing, and then for
reaching out to me.
The signs that you notice are pretty much all indicators that your friend
may well be in an abusive relationship.
So here is what to do and what not to do :
– Before you have any contact with your friend, your most important
task is to self-regulate. That means soothe yourself into a calm
state. If you appear angry, upset, accusatory, your friend will
not only not volunteer information, but clamp up and be defensive
and in denial, as you will trigger her alert guarded response
– Allow her always to feel comfortable, safe, and secure with you as in
a state of calm she may volunteer more information to you
– Your purpose is to let her know that SHE IS NOT ALONE.
– Do not be forceful in conversations .. no questions asked. For
For example, do not ask “why do you stay?” “When will you leave ?”
– Talk about “Unhealthy “ rather than “Abusive “ behavior that you
– Notice her .. just notice her and tell her “I notice you .” and give
concrete examples of what you notice, as you have listed above.
– For example, “I notice you spend a lot of time checking in with
your partner when we are out. I would feel controlled “
– There must be no judgment in your tone or use of language- she
will shut down as she already feels her own shame/blame/guilt for
staying and not being able to leave the relationship
– Do not say anything to her partner – this is a high risk for you and
your friend as he confronts her leading to further violence towards
– It is vital that you vocalize that you notice the bruises or cuts, that
you are afraid she is being harmed in her relationship, and with no
judgment, and offer to get her medical assistance.
– Tell her she doesn’t deserve to be spoken to so roughly. Remind
her of her worth and value and that this is not how healthy people
behave in intimate relationships.
– When she backs out of doing nice things with you in order to be
with her partner, let her know that behavior is unhealthy and
actually sounds bordering on control.
– Talk to her about her partner’s history of past relationships and
point out the pattern: he slam dunks all his ex’s
– The last thing you want to do is tell her “just leave/break up”. Her
partner is controlling, so you want to avoid mimicking these
– Be firm, kind, and compassionate .. but don’t give up noticing and
letting you know that you are there to support them.
– Give her a list of resources of where she can call if and when she is
ready to reach out to a professional person. ‘YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
– Make her feel that she is in control of her own life and in control of
the situation .. even staying shows that she is in control as she is
controlling her safety .. what a star she is!