Advice for Family and Friends
There is an excellent book that I love to recommend to people like you:
- YOU CANNOT SAVE A BATTERED WOMAN! Only she can rescue herself.
- The only thing you can do for a battered woman is to teach her the truth about her situation. Obviously, you can't have a one-time cram session and teach her everything you know because that won't work. Wait for the opportunities to teach her little "nuggets" of truth like warning signs, the cycle of violence, protective orders, etc. The abuser certainly won't tell her these types of things, so it's up to you to share with her what you know.
- Don't force your sister to choose. Stand by her. Tell her frequently that you love her and support her. Don't waste your time talking about the abuser and criticizing him. It will only make her run to him more.
- Do all that you can to protect yourself and your family. If your loved one persists in seeing this guy and it is endangering you, then you may have to make some strong rules for her like: she can't live with you, she can't bring him over or to any other family function, she can't call the guy from your house, etc. Don't let your love and concern go so far that you put the rest of your family in danger.
- Make sure you support your loved one, but don't do things for her. Drive her to the courthouse, but don't be the one to file the paperwork; drive her to the police station, but don't sign anything. Love her, but make sure that she does things for herself.
- Always remember that the most dangerous time of a relationship is after a woman leaves. Take extra precautions with your loved one. If you have to send her out of state, then do it. Make sure that she is safe-- there are far too many women in UT being killed by their ex's lately. When an abuser sees a strong shield of support around the victim or when the victim is no longer affected by them, more often than not they move on.
"Helping Her Get Free" by Susan Brewster. (see "Links" page for more details).
Thoughts from my Family & Friends
During the whole time this was going on (from the first mention of William, to when we were living in nearby to finally wondering if Sarah was still in the area or even alive), our emotions and thoughts ran the entire spectrum. We thought everything from 'where did we go wrong?’ to ‘what did we do (or not do)?' to 'Sarah knows what's right and wrong and has to choose for herself.’
Our first warning sign should have been when Sarah told us about her first encounter with him and the intensity and speed by which things were moving. I do remember thinking that this might be another 'cause'. Sarah always did champion the underdog (sometimes not to her benefit).
We should have kept up a daily phone dialog with Sarah. We might have been able to 'see' things she couldn't (but then we didn't know the first thing about abusive relationships). But keeping closer contact would have been a wise thing to do. The loss of communication with her (especially after she eloped) was frightening. Not knowing where she were living or being able to talk to her on the phone was extremely hard. That's why I had to get creative and figure out where she were working and somehow try to see if she were OK. I'm still forever grateful to the ladies at her work who gave me information about her and who made the phone call telling me she was there picking up her last paycheck.
I remember being very prejudiced against William, even before I met him. And when I did see him face-to-face, I knew my worst fears were confirmed. I also remember that he tried to be very charming at first, but as I continued to be defensive towards him, he became more vocal in 'how good he was' and that he was the best man for Sarah. It still makes my skin crawl when I think about the first encounter and all the other encounters with him, too. When he threatened us on the phone, saying that if we didn't leave them alone, he'd make sure we never saw Sarah again. That's when we knew we needed to be closer by.
William could give you a crocodile and then convince you that it wasn't dangerous. He'd have you holding and petting that crocodile before you even realized it had bit off half your arm and you were bleeding to death.Sarah was young and inexperienced. William's ways were exciting and grown-up. Her logical mind was overpowered by his ways. It didn't make any sense to us. One minute she could understand and think clearly and the next she was caught and trapped again.The term "roller coaster ride" is an understatement. The ups and downs were faster and more intense than even the fastest roller coaster in the world. He had a way with words that was powerful and cunning. He knew what he wanted and how to get it. William had a power that we had never seen before and never have since then.
William was quick to assess who was “for him” and who was “against him” in his pursuit of whatever he was after and in this case, that was Sarah. He immediately did not like me since he felt I did not like him. Each meeting brought more arrogance on his part and more contempt aimed directly at me. He didn’t want ANY interference. His demeanor showed no respect for my home or my space—William was first and always right in ALL situations. He simply kept the upper hand by running over anyone who was in his way, and by making them feel insignificant.
I remember that he came across as a salesman. I didn’t like the vibe that came from him. I knew something was wrong before they ever eloped. At first Sarah was very happy, but then she wasn’t so blissful anymore. She became more timid after she met William. She seemed almost fearful of him, but at the same time she was happy to be with someone. Sarah was so scared and confused after they became engaged.
I always tried to bet here for Sarah when she wanted to talk. I’d listen and try to offer advice if I could. Usually I couldn’t, but I was grateful she would talk to me about things that were bothering her.
From the experience I learned to be a better friend and to not just listen to what I am being told, but to listen to the nonverbal and then act on that. I would tell other people to be the type of person you want someone to be for you. I wish I would have known the description of an abuser and what to look for. The clues were in front of me, but I picked up on them too late.
I would also tell people to be watchful and caring. Take a little more time to listen to what is really going on. Be the best friend that you can be. And if you suspect something is going on, PLEASE get some help. Find someone that knows how to deal with abusive relationships. Don’t sit back and think that everything will be okay. Do something, anything.
My Best Friend
Prior to meeting William, Sarah was one of the most silly and light-hearted people around. She was always doing something goofy and just having fun in general. This is not to be taken that she was not serious, because she was. She was very serious about her religion and was focused on getting her degree. She knew exactly what she wanted to do (be a teacher) and how to get to that point. I always had the perception that she was one of those people who everyone could talk to, and that people could open up to and tell personal information to without feeling judged or stupid
My impressions of William were not good from the get-go. I had not actually MET William until after several major events had occurred. There were several fights about whether or not Sarah was going to kiss her. . .and then, well, you know what happened. HE KISSED HER!! But, at the time, it was a very traumatic thing, especially in light of conversations she had had with him about it. I remember thinking. . ."what kind of jerky guy does something he's been asked not to do and acts like its just no big deal that he completely ignored his girlfriend's feelings on the topic?" I couldn't understand why someone would profess to like a girl so much and then do exactly what she asked him NOT to do. And be so smug about it. SELFISH is another word to describe him, I guess. William didn't like me because I didn't like him. I guess the untrustworthy are not very trusting of others, either. I don't think I ever saw him smile. He always seemed so depressed or upset, and nothing ever made him happy. Sullen. Grouchy. Moody.
After Sarah started dating William, she was, in my honest opinion, emotionally unstable. She cried more than I had ever seen her cry outside of a church meeting. She wasn’t happy or organized the way she was before, and she was always stressing over what William thought or had said or whether or not he was going to listen to her or whether or not he was going to do something she didn't like. She tried several times to break up, but he somehow always convinced her to stay together. I guess that is the softer side in Sarah coming out. She has a sense of responsibility to take care of people who are close to her, so it was sometimes hard to say NO to things that aren't necessarily good for her.