How do I help a battered friend out?
November 14, 2013 6:38 PM   Subscribe

I have a younger friend, not very close, that was beaten up badly by her boyfriend. He went to jail on existing warrants and just got out. She hasn't answered his phone calls and has been walking past her restaurant with a friend, looking in as he does. She wants to come over until she finds a friend to stay with for tonight, since I live close by. She's young and I think has had bad incidences with the police before and won't talk to them. I want to help her, but she's not that close at all and more of a friend of a friend. I'd like to extradite myself from the situation as much as possible while still doing the right thing. What should I do?

Some more background, apparently the boyfriend is a cocaine dealer with a gang of some sort. Obviously he's the violent type, so I'm also concerned for my safety. He doesn't know me or where I live.

She hasn't pressed charges yet. I told her I could help her call battered women's shelters or help her find someone more qualified than myself to help her, but she's insisting not to.

She's not been answering his texts or calls, which is good, but he does know where she lives.

Kind of at a lost here, went through some past threads and nothing really came up. I'm sort of a third party in the situation that was just kind of thrown in and as much as I'd like to help and I really want to do anything I can, I know how these things can cycle unfortunately and I definitely don't want to also be the target of violence. I know that sounds selfish but I don't know the parties involved really at all.
posted by geoff. to Human Relations (12 answers total)
You seem to be asking for permission to set healthy boundaries. Permission granted.

"I told her I could help her call battered women's shelters or help her find someone more qualified than myself to help her"

That's the help you can offer. If she doesn't want that help, there's nothing you can do. You'll probably feel shitty about that, because it's a shitty situation. The boundaries you want to set by not being involved are totally reasonable.
posted by colin_l at 6:50 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

Try calling one of the resources on this page and see what they advise.
posted by MoonOrb at 6:50 PM on November 14, 2013

Can you emphasize to her that you can't guarantee her safety to the degree a battered women's shelter can? Those places are set up for that kind of thing and can help her find the necessary legal services. Your house is only safer than hers until the guy finds out she's there. And if he's looking for her and you're nearby to where she normally lives he probably will.
posted by schroedinger at 6:51 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Call a women's shelter for help. They can connect you with whatever local resources are available and they can help you figure out what to do. Your friend may discourage this, but who you call for advice is not up to her.

I think it is a really good idea for you to maintain healthy boundaries in this situation. Your friend probably has very good reasons for being distrustful of authority (sadly) -- institutions can be very dehumanizing and violating which can compound the emotional trauma of an already difficult situations. There are compassionate people out there as well, and maybe a safe place for her somewhere, but the emotional cost of having a door slammed in your face when you beg for help is high for her, as she is the vulnerable one. For you, it's not, so this is the best way you can support her -- help her navigate whatever systems exist, maybe do the talking, maybe offer to go with her to meetings, as the situation develops. As much as you'd be comfortable with.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:53 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

Personally, I would invite her over but let her know upfront that by involving me if I felt either of our safety was in danger I would call the police for lack of a better option. From personal experience, the police often do not handle domestic abuse very well so I understand her reluctance. Since she has already said this would only be for a few hours while she makes arrangements she is comfortable with, I would offer her that haven and my phone. Before she gets there, I would call battered women's shelters/violence prevention/police/211 to find out what options ARE available to her and communicate that information to her to use either that night or at a later date.
posted by saucysault at 6:54 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with saucysault. I'd offer her a roof over her head, but the instant I felt threatened or thought something illegal was going down, I would call the cops. Tell her that upfront.
posted by Grandysaur at 7:09 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Maybe assist her to change her phone number or get a Google Voice number. I think giving her practical help is a way to be of service without putting yourself at risk.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:10 PM on November 14, 2013

Given that she's a friend of a friend -- where's the mutual friend right now? Can s/he be prevailed upon to step into the breach here?
posted by kmennie at 7:16 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I second and third the advice about "healthy boundaries," especially with the added complication of drugs and violence muddling an otherwise clearcut case. As my mom always said, "Getting them in is easy; getting them out is difficult," in the sense that once she is under your roof, you may be pressed to extend the stay and possibly getting involved on a level you are not comfortable but may feel obliged.

It's a tough call on your part, to be sure.
posted by Quaversalis at 7:40 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

OP: This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen and you should not let someone you barely know who has been dating a cocaine dealing gang leader into your home. That might sound harsh but, seriously, why are you considering putting yourself in the (literal?) line of fire this way? You're not responsible for people you don't even know!
posted by Justinian at 8:12 PM on November 14, 2013 [13 favorites]

It might help to let her know that she can contact the domestic violence shelter without moving into the shelter, without promising never to see the boyfriend again, and without any further police involvement. (People sometimes have wrong ideas about what "calling a shelter" means.)

She can probably just talk to someone on the phone for a while and they'll direct her to whatever resources are available.

Beyond that, I agree that for you, "I can help you locate other resources" is a perfectly valid offer, and no more is ethically required.
posted by jaguar at 8:24 PM on November 14, 2013

So everything turned out great! At least for now.

I called up a women's shelter in front of her and explained the situation. They told her exactly what she needed to hear, at least when I relayed it to her.

It might help to let her know that she can contact the domestic violence shelter without moving into the shelter, without promising never to see the boyfriend again, and without any further police involvement. (People sometimes have wrong ideas about what "calling a shelter" means.)

This was exactly the issue. Less about seeing the boyfriend again and more about police involvement.

I should have been more clear, at no time was I contemplating letting her stay or anything of that sort. I was looking more for resources to help her out and make her feel safe and not just slamming the door in her face. She was very distraught and panicked.

And she's filing a police report tomorrow, or at least claims to be.

Kind of funny that all these years of asking stupid questions on AskMetafilter, and today I'm reading the paper and an acquaintance shows up looking like they just got the shit beat out of them and tells you their cocaine dealing ex-boyfriend who is supposed to be in jail keeps walking past the restaurant they work in and they don't know what to do ... and I'm like I have no idea this is not a problem I have ever faced or contemplated. I bet the Internet will know. The Internet did know!
posted by geoff. at 9:14 PM on November 14, 2013 [24 favorites]

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