My older sister is in an abusive relationship and she refuses to leave. As a writer, I have tried several times to sit down and get this out of my system, but it’s an extremely painful and frustrating topic to talk about. I didn’t expect it would be a tweet from Brian McFadden that would finally push me to say something.
If, as he says, his tweet was about a friend, then I understand Brian’s frustration. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone you care about being abused. Except seeing someone you care about being abused and having them refuse your help.
The way Brian vented his frustration was ignorant and wrong. It demonstrated a complete lack of understanding about what to do when someone you love refuses to leave.
But I think that ignorance is the important message we need to take away from his careless tweet. That is the conversation we need to be having in a public forum: What do you do when they just won’t go?
Recently, during the White Ribbon Day weekend, I read a lot of articles by and about abused women. I read a lot of quotes like: “If someone had offered help, I would have left” or “I came to work with black eyes, and nobody did anything” and “I finally got away when somebody spoke up and helped me”. The message seemed clear: If you see something, do something. And it’s an extremely important message to get out there.
But what if you see something, do something, and that doesn’t work? What then? What comes next? I didn’t come across any articles about what to do in that situation. About what to do if they go back no matter how much help and support you offer them. I’m an intelligent, well-educated and compassionate woman and I’m at a loss. And although I think Brian McFadden was less than eloquent in the way he chose to voice his opinion, it would seem that he is at a loss too. And in that respect, I understand where he was coming from.
My sister’s partner was always verbally and emotionally abusive. He would call her an idiot, stupid, ugly – and that’s just what he was willing to say in front of me. He began to isolate her from her family and friends almost immediately.
Anybody who spoke out against him was a ‘racist’ (he’s Lebanese), or had an agenda to split them up because they were ‘jealous’. Ridiculous reasons, but my sister believed them, and slowly her friends started to drop away. She saw her family less and less. Pleasing him became her number one priority. I constantly spoke out against him and that caused tension between us, so I tried to get along with him as best I could for the sake of her and our relationship.