My friend told me her husband hits her. They've been married about 18 months and have a baby girl who isn't even a year old. She said it all began after her daughter was born. She has been calling me a lot and saying he’s hit her. She thinks he is planning to take her daughter away from her.
She doesn't want to tell her family. I think she feels ashamed to tell them, but she also said they would hurt him. I told her I could help her if she left him, but she says she wants to make it work. I don't know if I should mind my own business or tell her family or what. I'm afraid for her and her child. What do you think I should do?
Battered wives syndrome doesn't take long to take root in a woman's life, especially when a child is involved. His abuse has paralyzed her, leaving her immobile and feeling helpless. This is further illustrated by the concern she feels for the same person who is hitting her. That she wants the marriage to work indicates her family has in some way conveyed to her that, abused or not, it is her job to make it work.
There is no minding your own business. By telling you what's happened, she's made it your business. Naturally you are concerned about her and her child – and rightfully so. Abusive situations don't get better by themselves; they almost always get worse.
Offers to help are lost on her because she can't see to the other side of what's being offered. All she sees is what she is sure will happen: harm to her husband and the loss of her daughter. She's more concerned about her husband and their marriage than she is about herself and her daughter. This is all the more alarming because an injured mother in an abusive relationship is not in the best state to be taking care of a baby. She is not seeing things in their proper perspective.
As soon as possible, call and speak to someone at your local domestic violence center. Ask if you can arrange to visit their office in person. A face-to-face discussion with an experienced and qualified professional may go a long ways in easing your concerns about reporting it. Most centers do not allow shelter visits or disclose the location of their shelters, but most do have an office at a different location.
Give them as many details as possible: names, addresses (their home and his work), phone numbers, the number of times she's called and the things she's said. Ask questions that directly address the concerns your friend has expressed in addition to questions about helping her out: Can they help her? How and when? What can you do? Will she be protected from him if she leaves? What are the legal recourses and resources available to her to keep her and her child safe?
The next time your friend calls to say she's been hit, call the police. Give them as many details as possible. Depending on how much time passed between her being hit and her calling you, there may be little the police can do. However, if you call each and every time she calls you, this will create a paper trail of sorts. In some cases, just one call may prompt a visit to the home by police or social services – even if it's been hours or days since the last abusive incident.
They may speak with her about her situation and perhaps get photos of her injuries. It is sincerely hoped the man has not harmed the child, but if he has, this also could be documented and addressed. All of this can be used to aide in the process of getting her and her child out of the situation. For all you know, neighbors have also called the police. It won't take that many calls to send red flags up at the police station.
It's worth noting your own hesitation to report it. Imagine then how desperately helpless she feels to do anything about it. You already know she isn't going to leave the situation of her own accord. If you don't report it, it will very likely get worse for her and her child. Things may happen that you will only be able to look back at later with regret. You won't have the regret that comes with not reporting it if you say something now.
Assuming you are both young (20's or younger), working with older women (over 30) in the domestic violence center will serve to show you there are older women you can depend on, who do care, and who can make all the difference.