Jude Simpson is a survivor of family violence who now works as a family violence prevention advocate for Presbyterian Support Northern.
Jude experienced abuse as a child from the age of 9 and subsequently became caught up in a cycle of domestic violence, substance abuse and crime. For 28 years she lived in violent and abusive relationships, was a member of both the Mongrel Mob and Highway 61 gangs and had four children to four different partners.
In her thirties Jude sought help and turned her life around. She is now a living example that change is possible and that people can break the cycle of violence.
She is committed to helping others to live free of violence.
My best friend is in an abusive relationship and has been for over a year. She has been led into depression, is very self-conscious and keeps going back.
Thank you for writing in. It's so hard isn't it when you see someone you care about staying in a relationship where they are being hurt. Unfortunately, as an adult, she has the right to make that choice, we can't force anyone to leave a relationship, even if it's abusive.
What we can do though is stay as close to her as possible, keep letting her know that she is a valuable human being and that she is worthy of being treated with respect and love. Let her know that, as much as you don't like her staying with this person, it's only because you care about her so much that you worry about her. Let her know that you have seen the bruises and know how she got them but..... whatever she chooses to do you will stay right beside her, no matter what.
Be careful not to go on too much about what is being done to her, be careful not to get angry with her and tell her what she should be doing or not doing, just let her know in a loving way that you care about her and want the best for her. Keep in touch regularly, physical visits, phone calls, text, emails, whatever way you can. If you feel or see her start to push you away and start to isolate herself that's when you'll need to try even harder to keep in touch because a tactic perpetrators often use is to isolate their partners so that they are not influenced by anyone other than them. They want total control so just be mindful of that.
Try and build her up as much as you can, remind her of the great things she does, (no matter how small) anything you see that she is doing that is positive, praise her. What we want is for her to value herself enough so that she will start to see herself differently and eventually realise that she does not deserve to be abused - ever - by anyone. Having a supportive friend is so important. Often people can get angry with a person who stays in an abusive relationship, especially when they have tried to tell them to leave and they haven't listened. They get annoyed, frustrated and walk away and where does that leave the person who is being hurt. Who can she turn to when things have gone bad? Who is there for her? That's why it is so important to stay as close as possible.
May I also suggest that you and your friend together discuss creating a safety plan. This is a plan that if things get out of hand she can act immediately. For example, having a code name or phrase agreed upon so that if she rings or texts this particular word you will know exactly what it means and what to do. It may mean that you call the Police or you go over to her house immediately. Also having things like a spare set of car keys hidden away, or some money for a taxi, having a pre-arranged place to go to that she can turn up to at any time of the day or night, having all her important documents put somewhere secret and safe so they can be grabbed in a hurry, same with any medication she may be taking. It's also reminding her that she can call the Police on 111 at any time should she need to.
These safety plans are very good and have in fact been known to save women and children's lives. What this also says to her is, I may not like you staying, but it is your choice and I respect that, but how about we do up this plan just in case.