Ask Ava

Ask Ava, Episode 85: "What can I do if my friend is abusing their partner?"

November 11, 2021 Ask Ava Season 1 Episode 85
Ask Ava
Ask Ava, Episode 85: "What can I do if my friend is abusing their partner?"
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 85: "What can I do if my friend is abusing their partner?"

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On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about what to do when you know that your friend is being abusive towards their partner.

This is Jessica Skultety, Community Outreach Associate at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services to survivors at no charge for over 40 years.  

Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, what can I do if my friend is abusing their partner?”

We get a lot of questions from teens about helping a friend who is the target of abuse. But some teens also ask about this: when a friend is actually the one using abuse in a relationship. We know that 1 out of 3 teens in America experiences dating violence before high school graduation, so there are a lot of people who are NOT treating their dating partners with respect and safety.

So, there is a LOT you can do if your friend is being abusive. There are 3 main steps to this process: 1. Recognize the abuse, 2. Respond somehow, and 3. Refer this person to help or assistance from others. It’s really important to NOT ignore this behavior.

Recognizing abuse can be hard sometimes. So, here are some things you might notice about your friend’s relationship and their behavior.

·       Is your friend constantly making everything about jealousy or acting possessive? Do they always think that their partner is cheating on them?

·       Does it seem like your friend’s partner can’t make decisions for themselves, that you know of?

·       Is your friend spending all their free time with their partner? If they’re not together, is your friend expecting their partner to respond to their messages immediately, or to prove where they are?

·       Does your friend put their partner down by calling them names or embarrassing them, in public or in private?

·       Are they pressuring their partner to engage in sexual activities? Are they angry about their partner not wanting to take a certain step? Are they laughing about it?

These are just a few warning signs of an abusive relationship.

After you recognize abuse, the main thing to do is to respond. If you feel safe, call out your friend’s behavior. If you ignore the behavior, you’re sending the sign that you think it’s okay for your friend to act in this way. Abuse tends to get worse, too, so by you stepping in, you might be able to help to prevent a more unsafe situation. Even if we don’t admit it, we care about what our friends think of us, so you saying something could help. It could be as simple as saying, “Hey, stop talking about them like that.” 

Also, don’t let your friend blame the target or other people for their own behavior. Abuse is a choice, and every time we behave a certain way, we have a choice. Abuse is never the target’s fault, even if they made the other person upset.

You can remind your friend that they can get into trouble for abuse, and that respect benefits them in the long run. Some behaviors such as harassment, sexual harassment, physical assault, sharing nude photos of minors, and stalking are illegal, and they can be charged in a court of law. 

There are also many laws protecting targets of abuse over 18 under New Jersey’s state domestic violence laws. Even if something isn’t a crime, it can have negative, long-term effects on the survivor of abuse. There are real consequences to abusive behaviors. 

If you feel safe to do so, you can recommend that your friend reach out to trained professionals for something like individual therapy. One of the ways that people who use abuse can change is by promising to change. Then, they go through with it by understanding the root cause of WHY they abuse in the first place. It’s a constant commitment to different behavior.

You might also decide to reach out to your friend’s partner to make sure they are safe, ask them what they need, and refer to help as necessary.

If you don’t feel safe to do any of these things, that’s a huge warning sign that it’s time to get someone else involved, like a trusted adult. This could be a parent or family member, teacher, administrator, or coach. If your friend has committed a crime like sexual assault, you can call 911 to report the incident.

Finally, you can also set an example. If you exhibit and show healthy behaviors, communication, and respect in your own friendships and relationships, other people around you, like your friends, are more likely to do it, too. You have a lot of options here to promote healthy relationships and intervene in your friend’s relationships!

If your friend is being abusive and you don’t know what to do, you can also call or text us to talk it out.

To speak with an expert about dating violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential hotline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning. 

Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.