top of page

lady crying because of abusive patner

By Samantha Reid as told to Madeline Brand

My best friend called one night with a question that would shake me to my core: “I fell and hurt my ribs. Should I see a doctor?” She insisted that this was kept a secret. Yet, her strained tone made it obvious that she did want someone to know about this and much more. She claimed this was the first fall, though of course, it was really the first fall I was aware of.

I knew this was no accidental “fall.” I knew something was wrong from the very beginning, and yet I did nothing. She would make excuses about his abusive behavior, insisting it was only temporary, a result of his traumatic childhood. She wanted to be with him and thought that if she changed her looks or her behavior this would avoid upsetting him, and he might come around. Her blind faith and longing had overwhelmed my intuition. But I knew: this was intimate terrorism. And next time?

Next time he might kill her.

This was not a new problem with my friend. I witnessed her in other relationships where she was emotionally abused. I witnessed regular criticisms of her appearance, her intelligence, and the calculated manipulation and guilt trips her abusers threw at her. I begged my friend to leave many times, but she refused. Knowledge of the difficulties of single parenting, reduced financial circumstances, lack of means to support herself, along with the manipulation, and fear kept her paralyzed.

There were times I had to cut ties with my closest and dearest friend to heal from the emotional pain her abusive situations were causing me. In the difficult pursuit of accepting her choices, I demoted perpetrators in my mind to people who were sick and didn’t know better. In my effort to stay helpful and supportive to my friend, I overcorrected my sense of danger by the story she kept rewriting. She disguised the horror she was in until I could barely see anything at all.

Trying to understand why women are attracted to abusive partners is a very perplexing thing, especially if you’re the best friend watching it happen. Psychologists have been puzzled by this phenomenon for years and found various reasons as to why it may occur.

The most common reason is that it stems from childhood. Women who are typically attracted to abusive men often come from homes with abusive men (father, stepfather, mom's boyfriend). When they get older, they use abusive relationships to soothe the outstanding emotional issues from their youth. This definitely explains my friend’s long-term psychological and social adjustment problems that carried over into adulthood. But I am telling you my story, not hers.

I wanted to learn as much as I could about domestic violence. The more I understood it, the more I saw a pattern of behavior that is purposeful and systematic and that tends to get worse over time. Even if the children are not being directly abused, growing up in this environment is abusive and harmful.

Years passed, and I’d become a mother myself as I answered my friend’s call. Hearing her panic over the phone, worried and in pain, was unbearable. I really didn’t want her children exposed to any more abuse; I wanted her to give them the best life possible. But she was not ready to take that first step to recovery and leave that toxic marriage. Moving forward was difficult and overwhelming for her.

It is well established in the literature that if victims of domestic violence want to heal or escape from the effects of an abusive relationship, they need to look at why they sabotage their own mental health and well-being. If they don’t, they risk going back to another abuser. This is not victim blaming, rather it is noticing their side of participating in a destructive relationship, and why they allow themselves to be mistreated.

My friend was not capable of providing her children with a safe and stable environment. They may never forget what they saw and experienced during the 20 year abusive marriage. She did not know how to respond, and they never received the right mental health support they needed. Their childhood trauma impaired their ability to develop full emotional maturity, create a strong foundation for ongoing self-growth and adult interpersonal relationships.

I’m not a psychologist or medical professional, but I hope my story shows how painful it is to watch your best friend and their children be victims of domestic abuse. Despite my desire to help, I realized that I cannot change, fix, or solve my friend’s problems. She needs to figure out the contributing factors to entering and remaining in these unhealthy abusive relationships. Until then, the intimate terrorism will continue.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to help you with questions, resources, and to create a safety plan.

Phone: 800-799-7233, SMS: Text START to 88788, and Website

Hours: 24/7. Languages: English, Spanish and 200+ through interpretation service.

Additional resources for survivors of domestic violence and members of their support system for informational purposes on professional help, finding housing, legal assistance, and more.

Madeline Brand is a diversity and equity advocate with a passion for writing and editing. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences: Psychology and Sociology from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor's degree, Journalism, media studies and communication from the University of Missouri. She lives in Winston-Salem, NC.

red rectangle



bottom of page