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Should I butt in or stay out of this?
January 2, 2014 4:36 PM   Subscribe

I (Sa Dec) am asking this for a friend. My friend M.'s friend is in a life-threatening abusive relationship, but refuses to get help for it. Should M. tell her friend's family about the friend's situation or stay out? What should M. do to help?

** This is M.'s version of the story below: **

I have a girlfriend, Diane, who was severely disillusioned with her previous boyfriend so much so that she became involved with a female sometime after the breakup, we’ll call her Lynn…

Lynn has had a pretty rough life, was in the service and after a psychological breakdown, and was discharged from the military.

Diane and Lynn met at work, became friends and then became involved, going so far as moving in together and sharing their lives but it was never a smooth ride, as they were constantly arguing and Lynn became possessive, jealous with a pure rage that would turn into physical violence.

About 3 months ago, Diane was texting some of her girlfriends that Lynn had always found “threatening” and after a few glasses of wine Diane told her to get a grip and rather than calming down, she instead grabbed the bottle of wine and broke it on Diane’s head while smashing her face into the broken glass on the floor repeatedly.

After escaping her grip she tried to escape thorough the front door unsuccessfully and instead ran into the bathroom. Lynn then proceeded to chase her down, this time, with a knife and in a blind rage managed to get her arm through the door and started to swing her arm violently with the objective to seriously hurt her all while ranting about how to get rid of her dead body when she succeeds in killing her.
 
I told Diane that she should come stay with me for a few days after the incident and that she should press charges, she was lucky to be alive and should definitely seek and accept support to help see her though this. After much pleading with her, she did neither and she fell off the map. I only heard from her maybe 5 or 6 times since then. That was the first incident involving a knife as far as I know.
 
Last time I heard from her, on NYE, she tells me that she is in bad condition after having been actually stabbed three times. I immediately extend my help again and tell her not to go back. But she is starting to make up excuses and it looks like she is trying to avoid accepting anyone's help again.
 
She has a good family out of state that loves her very much but she was always the black sheep because of her rebellious nature. They know absolutely nothing of what is going on with her here and I am tempted to seek them out since she is putting herself in danger going back to the apt and possibly not pressing charges. I know she would see this as betrayal if I did do this, but I think she is handling the situation with this woman incompetently. I feel as though time is of the essence and that she is putting her life on the line. What should I do?
posted by Sa Dec to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I suggest your friend contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to get ideas about how she can help Diane. It is unclear to me why she thinks contacting Diane's out-of-state family is going to be helpful. What is it that she imagines they will do? If they see her as "rebellious" and a "black sheep" they may do more harm than good.
posted by Wordwoman at 4:53 PM on January 2 [6 favorites]


Is there any way for M to get any other type of help for Diane rather than getting in touch with her family? It strikes me that family might not be the best solution in this case, if Diane doesn't get on well with them, they know nothing of this relationship, and they don't even live nearby. The fact that it's a same-sex relationship and there's a strong chance that Diane isn't out to them is a significant factor as well.

Does Diane have any other friends or support network that could help? Could you get a local women's shelter involved? It seems to me that involving her family against her wishes is pretty much the worst way M could handle the situation. It's basically a recipe for her to refuse help.
posted by Sara C. at 4:54 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I don't know if there is anything you CAN do, because the bottom line is that the friend in the abusive relationship has to decide on her own to leave. It doesn't matter how much her friends or even her family is willing to help if she doesn't actively want to try to leave on her own. And given the freaking stabbing, maybe she's too afraid or injured to on her own. But until they want to leave on their own, you are usually SOL for trying to get someone out.

I'm not sure if notifying the family will help either, really.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:55 PM on January 2


Are there drugs involved...? This sounds way past "few glasses of wine" territory.

I don't know what use it would be to M. to know that, but it seems unlikely that the problems are not even more complex, and horrifying, and also probably embarrassing to Diane. Possibly a good rehab facility is what should be on offer.
posted by kmennie at 5:02 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Maybe there's a practical way to grease the wheels of justice and get them rolling at this Lynn. Are there any sympathetic neighbors of Diane's you could get on board who could then call the police for a domestic disturbance every. single. time. they're audibly fighting? People have a tendency to take the stance that domestic squabbling is none of their business. But if they knew how serious the violence is getting sometimes in this case, they might be more willing to be proactive.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:04 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Also, if a friend of mine was stabbed or had her face smashed in broken glass, I would call the police whether she wanted me to or not. I have no idea what the police would do, but I would not preemptively presume they would do nothing. I'd let them make the call as to whether it was worth investigating.
posted by Wordwoman at 5:08 PM on January 2 [22 favorites]


Stabbed multiple times? Face pushed into broken glass? Yes, M should call any family she knows about, any cops that might listen or anyone else that comes to mind. Yes, sadly, it will probably destroy the friendship between Diane and M. That doesn't matter.
posted by tyllwin at 5:17 PM on January 2 [10 favorites]


So M has heard about this abuse, but has she seen the results? Has she visited Diane in the hospital?

I only ask because multiple stab wounds will generally involve doctors and police.

There's a lot missing from this narrative and a domestic violence hotline should be called.

Multiple stab wounds is above the pay grade of internet strangers and I agree professionals should handle this.
posted by jbenben at 5:23 PM on January 2 [19 favorites]


better to have diane feel betrayed than there not be a diane around to have those feelings.

please have m. call a domestic violence hotline. they will more than likely have resources for m. to be able to try and help diane. this may involve bringing in the police. so be it, if it's necessary for diane to live.
posted by koroshiya at 5:42 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


[ Made the pseudonyms consistent, carry on.]
posted by restless_nomad at 6:09 PM on January 2


I agree that M should call a domestic violence hotline for some qualified expert advice, because if this is a true story it's way too serious for AskMe.

But I also think there's something off about this. I mean this - who was severely disillusioned with her previous boyfriend so much so that she became involved with a female sometime after the breakup - is a pretty weird judgement on M's part. People don't start same-sex relationships out of disillusionment with the opposite gender, for fuck's sake. And the kind of injuries M is describing would have had E.R. doctors reporting to the police whether the injured party wanted them involved or not, I would think. I feel like there's an unreliable narrator somewhere in this story, not sure who though.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:23 PM on January 2 [12 favorites]


M should read Helping Her Get Free: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women.
Unfortunately that book assumes there is time.
M needs to find a therapist herself, because if her friend is killed she will feel guilty for not doing enough.
posted by Sophont at 7:16 PM on January 2


Stab wounds, if she went to the ER and it was obviously a non-accident, would be required to be reported to the police by the doctor in many places.

However... there are if's there.

I'm not inclined to think the family will be of any help, and might be harmful. If it were me, I'd probably be considering whether or not to contact law enforcement myself with the info I had, either anonymously or not. Domestic violence raised to the level of threatened and attempted homicide... yeah, that would probably impel me to contact someone, at minimum the LOCAL domestic violence people.

Side note: I don't consider the "severely disillusioned with her previous boyfriend so much so that she became involved with a female sometime after the breakup" as sketchy, and it wouldn't even surprise me in slightest if the person themselves stated this as a reason. It's pretty common "reason", imo, right up there with curiosity and because "one particular person attracted them". I've even seriously considered the idea myself, but there are precious few women I "click" with enough to even be good friends with, let alone be in a relationship with.
posted by stormyteal at 7:18 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


call the police. who cares if she feels betrayed as long as she's alive to feel something. unless she's a complete a**hole she'll hopefully come to her senses and thank you once she's free and safe.

she should also definitely get into serious therapy.

M is a shitty friend already for not having intervened. it is absolutely her business to be involved and no less than a responsibility.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 7:55 PM on January 2


Re. "M is a shitty friend already for not having intervened" -- told Diane that she should come stay with me... After much pleading with her, she did neither and she fell off the map.
posted by kmennie at 8:23 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Speaking from personal experience with someone very much like Lynn, including the breakdown, but less physically violent...sometimes it's really hard to separate from a "walking wounded" person like this. They used drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, on top of their prescribed medications, and when that mix happened it was like they were droid-raging. Totally batshit insane sometimes. It was terrifying.

D might have gone underground because she is reeling and trying to make sense of everything that happened, is humiliated that this happened to her, is frightened, etc. Also, a lot of people don't trust the cops and don't trust doctors, either. She might be telling herself that she just has to deal with this herself, that she can't afford doctor bills or legal troubles, Lynn might have threatened her if she went to the police, etc. We can't know what is really going on, other than that it is Bad to the nth degree.

D could be already dealing with post-traumatic stress from this and not thinking clearly. She may not be in a position to think through the steps of collecting her things and getting herself to M's home. M will probably need to be more proactive here, because D is probably kind of shell-shocked at the moment.

Please encourage M to get D somewhere in person where they can talk privately for a while...coffee shop, restaurant, whatever...some place where D will feel safe. She might be afraid to go to a women's shelter on her own, but if M can talk it through with her in a supportive, not-so-much confrontational way, D might be willing to go and at least talk to an intake counselor. Then the professionals could handle it from there.

In my area, we have a crisis network with a 24-hour walk-in center. Is M nearby enough to meet D and go to something similar together?
posted by cardinality at 8:59 PM on January 2


Can't see how there's a question about whether people should be called. Of course the police, her family should be called.
posted by ambient2 at 11:55 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


outing her to her family has a big chance of pushing her closer to lynn. call professionals, leave her family out of it.
posted by nadawi at 7:12 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Something else that just occurred to me: there may be ramifications for not reporting it. Being aware that an attempted murder that occurred not just once, but twice? I don't think I'd want to be the non-reporter should the next try be successful.
posted by stormyteal at 9:42 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


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