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How Can I Help?

I have a friend I want to help but I don't know how to. She is an undergraduate student studying economics and she lives with her fiance. I do not even know if fiance is the right word. She lives with a man who neither pays her school fees nor buys her clothes, but who beats her when he feels like and wants food on the table when he gets back from work. Her school work is suffering because of the trauma she has to put up with. She has family in the area, her mother lives within a 20mile radius. Her family is not hostile to her but very supportive.

I do not know why she puts up with him. I have spoken to her a number of times. I tell her
"this man has not married you yet and he treats you like this already. Why do you think it will be better in future?" She looks at me and says nothing. She listens but does not act. Some say love is blind and that she loves this man and that is why she can take anything that he dishes out to her.

Love. Is that the right word? I don't think so. Maybe she loves him but I certainly do not think it is reciprocated. Talking to her obviously has not helped. What else can I do? How else can I let her know that there is more than that which she has seems to be settling for? I know she is just one of many struggling like this, but to me, she is my face in the women's empowerment drive. When I think of empowering women, I think of her.

What else can I do to make her see reason?

Comments

ENIE NDOH CECILE's picture

That's the Problem

From your story, this girl has a bright future as a University student and that shows she was not deprived of education. As you mentioned 'LOVE', i sometimes wonder how love can turn people stupid even those who are enlighten.
Looking at the qualities of love in the Bible, i ponder how some women subject themselves to abuses and torture when it can be avoided, they are not like those underprivileged naive, rural teenage girls forced into early marriage and striped from their rights to education.

Even so, your friend is the type who encourage men to assault women and mind you tomorrow she might consider you an enemy, holding you are against her good fortune. Perhaps she is in dire need to get hooked as such wants to portray the image of a good and persevering wife.

When such cases come up, for victims to denounce their partners they instead protect them. One of the reason why this gender struggle will be hard to accomplish for some of the women themselves are complacent with their situation.

What else can you do to make her reason - NOTHING, just let her be; you have done your part as a friend and God is your Witness. Just always remember her in your prayers asking for divine intervention.
Note-' you can lead a horse to water but can't force it to drink'.

Nelly2.0's picture

So true

Hi Cecile,

It is so true that you can force a horse to the stream but you can't make it drink. It's just this feeling of frustration that gets to me. You know what it's like here, where women think that by standing by abusive men they are being good women. I am certainly praying for her, that she gets to know what it means to be free, and for someone to love you without asking for anything in return except for you to love that person back. Thanks a lot for commenting on this.

ShukThi's picture

Dear Nelly

I would like to offer a few words of advice that might help you. I do not pretend to know everything about your friend's situation, but having worked with many women in this situation (although in a different country), and having read a lot of theory about this, you might find what I have to say helpful.

Firstly, please know that the fact that you know about her situation and have tried to help her is probably making a difference in her mind, even if it might not be immediately apparent in her actions. Sometimes every interaction like the ones with you are the pebbles that add up to the avalanche which will help her take the giant step of changing her situation.

Secondly, I hear your frustration when you say "I don't know why she puts up with him." I encourage us, as helpers to ask the question : "why does she stay?", instead of : "why doesn't she leave?" This might help us figure out the right approach to eventually help her do what's right for her. So why does any woman stay in a situation like this?
- She may have initially felt a positive emotion for him, and now cannot bear to admit to herself that maybe she has made a mistake.
- Her emotional reactions to him may be confused becuase he may intersperse his harsh treatment of her with private apologies and gentler ehaviour (This is a very common dynamic.)
- He is most likely verbally abusive as well as physically abusive to her. If he calls her lazy, questions her intelligence and strength and repeatedly belittles her, she has most probarbly completely internalized those ideas. She might now believe that she is not worth much as a person. Even if she hears you and her family tell her they support her, she might think that she does not deserve to be happy becuase of her lowered self-respect.
- She may be ashamed to leave and be branded in people's eyes as a failure. She may be afraid people will ask her 1) why didn't she leave earlier 2) why didn't she make the relationship work by sticking it out? All over the world, women are socialized to believe that making relationships work is their responsibility, and this can be a difficult idea to let go of.
- She may be afraid. He may threaten to hurt her much worse (maybe even lethally), if she leaves him. He might beg that, despite his treatement of her, he loves her, and will hurt himself if she leaves him. This fear is probarly very justified. His abuse of her is rooted in his need to control her, and with that comes possessiveness. He might follow her and make life very difficult if she does leave him.

You may have realized all this, already. I think it can be helpful to apprach each of these issues subtly, and try to plant the opposite idea in her mind.

Lastly, I think what you are doing is the best form of help to give her at this time. Unfortunately, she is clearly not ready to make a change yet. But that time will come, and when she is ready in her mind, she will know as her loyal friend, she can turn to you for assistance.

I have trained women to help suvivors of intimate partner violence. I tell them that becuase this kind of behaviour by the man takes away so much control from the woman, we cannot help her by trying to make a decision for her. If we can empower her to take back control, that will be the best thing to do for her.

It is never easy to watch a friend go through pain and suffering. I hope that sharing the little I know has been of some help to you. Please keep trying to let her know that when she is ready to take it, there is a way out.

Nelly2.0's picture

Thanks

Thanks for you comment. I think the suggestions you have given are quite pertinent. I must confess that I hadn't really thought of it that way. I mean, asking myself why she was staying. And you certainly do know a lot, not little. It makes a lot of sense. I am going to try that. I hope that I can post in my journal sometime later postive results. Thanks a lot. I was wondering if you could modify your comment and put it in your journal. It may help some other person.

Nelly

ShukThi's picture

Hi Nelly

I am glad I could help. I hope your friend's situation improves soon. That's a good idea, to post some of this in my journal. I will do that sometime soon.

Wow, it is always such a weird feeling to read these things and see yourself in them!

I do hope you put it into your journal since it needs to be stated and just left so woman who are going through this can see it and think about it. In mine I try to show the 'better but a bit hard at first' to help show it can actually be done even when it seems too hard at first.

love,

Maria

ShukThi's picture

Addendum

One more thing I wanted to add is that it is a myth that only rural/ uneducated/poor women are victims of sexual assault and violence in the family. Male violence against women is absolutely widespread and through every possible category in society. Blaming the woman who is already struggling and is ina place of victimhood is doing a disservice to her. Our job, as I see it, is to empower her, and to help her survive and come out on the other side by finding her own inner reserves of strength. She will then learn to thrive once again.

Farah Samin's picture

Here goes our STRENGTH

I don't know what to say? I think in one of my article I wrote about this kind of matter. It is really dishearted. Some women are always like this. They make themselves weak infront of men. I don't why they show this type of attitude? For your friend I would like to say that, you can arrange a conciling session along with your friends mom. Talk and tell her briefly about the effects of what she is doing now and try to uphold her faults and lackings in a effective way infront her. I think one day you will get result of your effort. I am glad that you are worried about your friend. It really appreciated me.

Farah.

Farah

Nelly2.0's picture

Thanks Farah

It truly is disheartening. I will try to arrange a meeting between my friend and her mom. I truly hope something positive happens. I mean, she has a bright future. I guess what worries me is her grades may suffer and she may not be able to turn the tide. But I will hope for the best. Thanks for your thoughts on the matter

Nelly

katea's picture

my thoughts on it

Nelly,
Reading your story about your friend moved me. It reminded me of almost the same experience with a friend of mine. Although, the physical abuse came in later when the guy felt my friend was already leaving him. They were not actually living together since both of them were very young and that kind of "live-in" thing in my society is a total no-no. She was more of psychologically abused and wasn't allowed to see/look at other guys, or even hang-out with her friends. But I had a way of "stealing her and her time" and made her join my meditation classes without the boyfriend's knowledge. I don't know if it's a bad thing that I never said a word; like I never said to her to leave him. I just reminded her all the time that she's loved by her family and friends, and when she's ready to reclaim her life we'd be there to celebrate it with her. Eventually, she left him. She told me, "Never again will I allow myself to be treated less like a woman, less like a human." The guy tried to win her back but she was adamant in her decision.

I think, one way is to show your friend that you're there for her anytime she needs you, and that you love her no matter what. Bond with her, bring her out, show her how good it is to have freedom and to be loved sincerely. I don't want to sound religious but during the time my friend was in a state of quagmire, I prayed day and night for her enlightenment. I called her on the phone everyday and told her how much she's loved. It worked!!! She's now enjoying her life as single with lots of suitors falling in line. :)

As a friend we cannot judge, we can only love. But I know that feeling that it feels frustrating when your friend is so blinded by the guy. What the boyfriend/the fiance cannot give, we must give so that your friend will be reminded that there's an alternative.

I'm not an expert on the subject but I hope somehow I made sense.

with love and support for you and your friend,
Katea

Poverty is man-made that we can undo.

Nelly2.0's picture

Yes you did

You make a lot of sense. I am so grateful that you shared you own story. I will show my friend love and I will pray for her. Please if you are religious, do not be afraid to sound religious. It is who you are. Thanks you so much for your love and support.

Nelly

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