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My best friend is divorcing her abusive husband (yay!). She obviously struggles to talk about it (to others, not me) but since she needs lots of support, she has authorized me to share when appropriate. My question is, do I straight up call him an abuser when I'm giving a quick explanation of the situation? I feel like anything else is minimizing and I do NOT want to do that. I just don't want to feed into the drama and have that come back around to hurt her in someway. This would be talking to people who know them both.

And would your answer change if this occurred in writing rather than in a conversation?

 

 

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Just off the top of my head I would be careful about what I say just in case it could lead to you being accused of libel, slander, defamation of character, etc. Since this is your best friend I don't doubt you may have witnessed abuse first hand but you may want to simply tell others your friend is divorcing for personal reasons or that the relationship has not been a healthy one and let it go at that.

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Honestly? I think she should learn to speak for herself. Abuse is hard to talk about, but she needs to start the long road toward once again seeing herself as a person with value. Part of that will be finding her voice again. So if she's present let her speak for herself, and if she isn't there, it's not your place to be telling third parties about what's going on. She can choose who to tell.

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I agree that she is going to have to lean to speak up for herself. She will deal with him the rest of her life, because abusers usually turn up their behavior after a divorce. They also ALWAYS paint the abused woman as "crazy", so she is going to really have to stand up for herself, because people, men and women, usually want to believe that the woman is "crazy" and the man is not abusive, but slandered. Any time I meet a man with a crazy ex wife, I know just who he is. My dh's ex wife who almost certainly has a personality disorder but he NEVER talks badly about her. He doesn't want to prejudice people against the child he had with her. Men who are abusers don't care about their children's feelings, they badmouth their ex.

 

But I think the OP doesn't help things by keeping her mouth shut. When someone asks straight out why the couple divorced it is better to just say he was abusive. Our society has to get over keeping that stuff private. We have to stand up for women who live through this at some point. Secrecy and privacy help the abuser and give him a higher platform for his lies.

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I agree that she is going to have to lean to speak up for herself. She will deal with him the rest of her life, because abusers usually turn up their behavior after a divorce. They also ALWAYS paint the abused woman as "crazy", so she is going to really have to stand up for herself, because people, men and women, usually want to believe that the woman is "crazy" and the man is not abusive, but slandered. Any time I meet a man with a crazy ex wife, I know just who he is. My dh's ex wife who almost certainly has a personality disorder but he NEVER talks badly about her. He doesn't want to prejudice people against the child he had with her. Men who are abusers don't care about their children's feelings, they badmouth their ex.

 

But I think the OP doesn't help things by keeping her mouth shut. When someone asks straight out why the couple divorced it is better to just say he was abusive. Our society has to get over keeping that stuff private. We have to stand up for women who live through this at some point. Secrecy and privacy help the abuser and give him a higher platform for his lies.

The abused friend should absolutely talk about what happened to anyone she feels comfortable telling. But there's no need for the OP to go around telling people the details of someone else's marriage and divorce. I don't understand why that would be necessary. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding her post.

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Accusing someone of domestic abuse can be defamation per se, so make sure everything you say can be proven by you (independently of anything told to you by your friend) as truthful.

 

I wouldn't say much of anything. You're proud of her for making a tough decision necessary for her health and safety.

 

Is she still in danger? As in you're telling people not to pass along information so he doesn't come after her? I don't understand why you are being put in this position.

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Thank you for your opinions. My intention was to put together some help for her, meals, childcare, that sort of thing. She is not asking for the help she needs because he has her convinced she's not worthy. It's hard to break through that kind of mindset. I don't want to just say "she's going through a hard time" because that doesn't convey the level of help she needs. Nor do I want to say they are splitting for mutual reasons or whatever, because it simply isn't true and invalidates her experience. I also feel the same as a PP, all the secrecy is just helping him control the narrative and hurt her. I don't need anyone to take sides, I just want to share with or mutual closest friends the truth so that we can help her. Nobody knows anything now, but he's already started rumors.

I agree she needs to learn to handle it. She's come a long way already but she is right at the beginning of the journey and she's really broken.

She has official documents and stuff outlining the physical abuse. I guess the emotional abuse is harder to prove in that way.

 

 

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Unfortunately it could hurt her in court with the divorce proceedings if you say something. I know that is hard.  If she is separated and thinks people will ask she should probably address those people directly and ask for their confidence.  If she has/is moving, then just say she is moving and don't say why.  

 

 

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Thank you for your opinions. My intention was to put together some help for her, meals, childcare, that sort of thing. She is not asking for the help she needs because he has her convinced she's not worthy. It's hard to break through that kind of mindset. I don't want to just say "she's going through a hard time" because that doesn't convey the level of help she needs. Nor do I want to say they are splitting for mutual reasons or whatever, because it simply isn't true and invalidates her experience. I also feel the same as a PP, all the secrecy is just helping him control the narrative and hurt her. I don't need anyone to take sides, I just want to share with or mutual closest friends the truth so that we can help her. Nobody knows anything now, but he's already started rumors.

I agree she needs to learn to handle it. She's come a long way already but she is right at the beginning of the journey and she's really broken.

She has official documents and stuff outlining the physical abuse. I guess the emotional abuse is harder to prove in that way.

 

 

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Just want to say, if she were my friend and you said she needed help with meals, childcare, etc., I would help regardless of the reason she needed it. I would imagine anyone going through divorce would feel sad and overwhelmed and could use support from her friends. Real friends don't need the details but will probably figure it out.

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Just want to say, if she were my friend and you said she needed help with meals, childcare, etc., I would help regardless of the reason she needed it. I would imagine anyone going through divorce would feel sad and overwhelmed and could use support from her friends. Real friends don't need the details but will probably figure it out.

I totally agree! But I know it's going to come up and I feel as if not say anything or making it seem mutual is a lie. An abuse perpetrating lie.

 

 

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I wouldn't label him "an abuser" but I might use the terms "domestic violence" if that was the case, or "abusive behavior" because those terms are more factual and less of an attack on his character, while still communicating the same information.

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I totally agree! But I know it's going to come up and I feel as if not say anything or making it seem mutual is a lie.

You don't have to make it seem like anything, just think of being discrete and protecting her privacy. She's going through a tough time.

 

It sounds like you really want to call this guy out. I really don't think it is your business to do so.

Edited by JodiSue
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Thank you for your opinions. My intention was to put together some help for her, meals, childcare, that sort of thing. She is not asking for the help she needs because he has her convinced she's not worthy. It's hard to break through that kind of mindset. I don't want to just say "she's going through a hard time" because that doesn't convey the level of help she needs. Nor do I want to say they are splitting for mutual reasons or whatever, because it simply isn't true and invalidates her experience. I also feel the same as a PP, all the secrecy is just helping him control the narrative and hurt her. I don't need anyone to take sides, I just want to share with or mutual closest friends the truth so that we can help her. Nobody knows anything now, but he's already started rumors.

I agree she needs to learn to handle it. She's come a long way already but she is right at the beginning of the journey and she's really broken.

She has official documents and stuff outlining the physical abuse. I guess the emotional abuse is harder to prove in that way.

 

 

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I would talk to the friends and ask if they're willing to go in with you on a meal train and regular childcare thing while she gets back on her feet. Keep anything you say to what YOU have personally observed. (Saying too much about her needing "help" with basic childcare could come back and bite her in court if he goes after custody. Don't paint her as unstable or unable to care for her kids.) If they have kids and will remain in the same community, they have to continue interacting. Yes, it sucks that he's starting rumors. Yes, people will take sides and gossip. You can say, "That's not my story to tell. You'll have to ask Susan. I'm very proud of her for doing what's necessary to protect her health and safety." Rinse. Repeat. 

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I totally agree! But I know it's going to come up and I feel as if not say anything or making it seem mutual is a lie. An abuse perpetrating lie.

 

 

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I would say she chose to leave because she no longer felt safe in the marriage. I can't talk more about it because of the divorce proceedings. She may be able to fill you in but please allow her to start that conversation and don't go prying because it is difficult. Right now she needs our support in these ways....

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I wouldn't label him "an abuser" but I might use the terms "domestic violence" if that was the case, or "abusive behavior" because those terms are more factual and less of an attack on his character, while still communicating the same information.

 

Was he arrested for DV? Is he being prosecuted?

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I had a friend in this situation.  She didn't talk a lot about it at first, and later found that many of her friends had hears (and believed) his version.  It wasn't good for her moving forward.  So I can see why you might want to be sure that friends know the situation.   I think some PP's have given good suggestions.  Do keep in mind, though, that the leaving process can be the most dangerous time for her.  

 

 You'll have to ask Susan. I'm very proud of her for doing what's necessary to protect her health and safety." Rinse. Repeat.

 
 

I would say she chose to leave because she no longer felt safe in the marriage.... Right now she needs our support in these ways....

Edited by justasque
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I would say she chose to leave because she no longer felt safe in the marriage. I can't talk more about it because of the divorce proceedings. She may be able to fill you in but please allow her to start that conversation and don't go prying because it is difficult. Right now she needs our support in these ways....

I will come back to reply to other posts but I just wanted to say that I love this. Saying "she no longer felt safe" is so accurate and yet not dramatic or... Anything of those others things I don't want it to be. Thank you

 

 

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Is there a domestic violence shelter/advocacy group who can help her? They can probably advise her on how to inform others of her situation.

I will ask her if she's looked so into that. Thank you. She has a lawyer but he just said use common sense in talking about it. Some more clarification on that would probably be helpful.

 

 

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I would talk to the friends and ask if they're willing to go in with you on a meal train and regular childcare thing while she gets back on her feet. Keep anything you say to what YOU have personally observed. (Saying too much about her needing "help" with basic childcare could come back and bite her in court if he goes after custody. Don't paint her as unstable or unable to care for her kids.) If they have kids and will remain in the same community, they have to continue interacting. Yes, it sucks that he's starting rumors. Yes, people will take sides and gossip. You can say, "That's not my story to tell. You'll have to ask Susan. I'm very proud of her for doing what's necessary to protect her health and safety." Rinse. Repeat.

Yes thank you that is a very good point. I would not want to make it seem as if she isn't capable.

 

 

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I'm really glad I posted here, it's helpful to have a reality check! I am a little surprised by the general response to stay out of it at all costs. I was hoping you all could help me understand this reasoning better. It seems that the main idea behind this is to protect her privacy. She doesn't want to remain private, she wants me to share in the right context. Not details, just a simple truth.

The other point being legal issues - again I would love some clarification on how my private conversations could become the basis for a court case. I'm really not trying to be dense, it's just not making sense to me right now.

I'm still struggling with the idea of being careful not to implicate him. How is this not a "Oh we wouldn't want to ruin the Stanford swimmers future by calling him a rapist" type thing? Deflecting questions all the time seems like a huge vote of no confidence in her and her experience.

 

 

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I'm really glad I posted here, it's helpful to have a reality check! I am a little surprised by the general response to stay out of it at all costs. I was hoping you all could help me understand this reasoning better. It seems that the main idea behind this is to protect her privacy. She doesn't want to remain private, she wants me to share in the right context. Not details, just a simple truth.

The other point being legal issues - again I would love some clarification on how my private conversations could become the basis for a court case. I'm really not trying to be dense, it's just not making sense to me right now.

I'm still struggling with the idea of being careful not to implicate him. How is this not a "Oh we wouldn't want to ruin the Stanford swimmers future by calling him a rapist" type thing? Deflecting questions all the time seems like a huge vote of no confidence in her and her experience.

 

 

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The Stanford rapist who knows how to swim was tried and convicted of rape. This man has not been convicted of anything.

 

If you believed he had murdered someone but he had never been charged or convicted of it, you couldn't go around calling him a murderer without opening yourself up to a defamation lawsuit. Same thing here with DV.

 

There's also her continued safety to consider. How is he going to react to hearing rumors about this? Is that going to endanger her more? It's **her** choice what information to share, not yours. You aren't her spokesperson. Let her be in control of this because it affects her the most. It might not feel "right" to you, but it's not your life at stake. You don't have to share that level of information in order to rally friends and support. People should bring meals and offer help because divorce in the best of circumstances is hard.

Edited by zoobie
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The Stanford rapist who knows how to swim was tried and convicted of rape. This man has not been convicted of anything.

 

If you believed he had murdered someone but he had never been charged or convicted of it, you couldn't go around calling him a murderer without opening yourself up to a defamation lawsuit. Same thing here with DV.

 

There's also her continued safety to consider. How is he going to react to hearing rumors about this? Is that going to endanger her more? It's **her** choice what information to share, not yours. You aren't her spokesperson. Let her be in control of this because it affects her the most. It might not feel "right" to you, but it's not your life at stake. You don't have to share that level of information in order to rally friends and support. People should bring meals and offer help because divorce in the best of circumstances is hard.

Thank you. That is a good clarification. I think we can all get a little too up in arms over these kind of issues.

Since she has asked me to share if appropriate, in your opinion should I refuse to do so? Would something along the lines of 'she doesn't feel safe' be appropriate or is that too inflammatory?

 

 

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Off the top of my head . . .

 

"Sally is having a rough time right now, and she needs our help. She is ending her unsafe marriage and is transitioning into life as a single mom. I know that her friends/church family/homeschool family would want to support her and help her be safe and well, so I'm organizing meals/rides/whatever for her. Can you help? Here is the sign up sheet/link/whatever. Also, to respect Sally's privacy and need for safety, please do not share any information at all with Sally's soon-to-be-ex-husband or anyone else without Sally's permission. Sally has authorized me to share this much information, but she's not ready to talk about this widely at this time. Thanks."

 

And, of course, run it by Sally before you say or write anything to anyone. 

 

By simply stating that the marriage was "unsafe" and that she is seeking "safety", presumably anyone with any brains will understand the meaning. Most people would know better than to ask questions (pry). With these words, you are not defaming anyone. Be especially careful about anything you put in writing. If you are talking to a close mutual friend, you can share more if you like, but only verbally, one on one. 

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if there was repeatedly emotional, physical and/or psychological abuse, merely stating - they're divorcing because he has an established pattern of abusive behavior (without going into details) is fine.  you're stating a fact, not repeating the drama.

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Understand that right now is the most dangerous time for her.  Also understand that there's a very good chance she'll go back to him, so take that into account. It usually takes people seven tries to leave an abusive marriage for good.

 

She's lucky to have a friend like you. :)

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The abused friend should absolutely talk about what happened to anyone she feels comfortable telling. But there's no need for the OP to go around telling people the details of someone else's marriage and divorce. I don't understand why that would be necessary. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding her post.

 

DV victims have good reason to be afraid of telling anyone, and by not telling anyone, they are protecting their abusers and this is a form of facilitation for their abusers to continue abusing. 

 

It bites. You don't know what the right thing to do is until afterwards.

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I agree that she is going to have to lean to speak up for herself. She will deal with him the rest of her life, because abusers usually turn up their behavior after a divorce. They also ALWAYS paint the abused woman as "crazy", so she is going to really have to stand up for herself, because people, men and women, usually want to believe that the woman is "crazy" and the man is not abusive, but slandered. Any time I meet a man with a crazy ex wife, I know just who he is. My dh's ex wife who almost certainly has a personality disorder but he NEVER talks badly about her. He doesn't want to prejudice people against the child he had with her. Men who are abusers don't care about their children's feelings, they badmouth their ex.

 

But I think the OP doesn't help things by keeping her mouth shut. When someone asks straight out why the couple divorced it is better to just say he was abusive. Our society has to get over keeping that stuff private. We have to stand up for women who live through this at some point. Secrecy and privacy help the abuser and give him a higher platform for his lies.

This is my Dh, too. His ex was bad news (drugs, partying, sleeping around, wracking up debt and hiding it) they didn't have kids, so it's a clean break several years before we met, but he still never says anything bad or mean about her on the rare occasion she gets brought up. If our kids ask why they split, he just says they didn't get along or had different priorities. He might mention the drugs to warn them of the dangers, but never in a derogatory way about her.

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OP, are you from a sub culture where there are only a few acceptable reasons for divorce so you feel compelled to convince the people you're asking to help her that she has a legitimate reason for divorce?  If that's the case, you have to stop trying to get someone else to understand or approve of her reasons for divorce.  They're not owed an explanation for why or even the general information that it's a "good" reason.  It's not your place to convince anyone of anything.  All you need to do is ask people if they want to help a woman going through a rough time.  Either they do or they don't.    Don't imagine she needs you to protect her reputation.  It's not 1924 in the rural South.

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Thank you for your opinions. My intention was to put together some help for her, meals, childcare, that sort of thing. She is not asking for the help she needs because he has her convinced she's not worthy. It's hard to break through that kind of mindset. I don't want to just say "she's going through a hard time" because that doesn't convey the level of help she needs. Nor do I want to say they are splitting for mutual reasons or whatever, because it simply isn't true and invalidates her experience. I also feel the same as a PP, all the secrecy is just helping him control the narrative and hurt her. I don't need anyone to take sides, I just want to share with or mutual closest friends the truth so that we can help her. Nobody knows anything now, but he's already started rumors.

I agree she needs to learn to handle it. She's come a long way already but she is right at the beginning of the journey and she's really broken.

She has official documents and stuff outlining the physical abuse. I guess the emotional abuse is harder to prove in that way.

 

 

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So you're the person/intermediary who is trying to get her some much needed help.  He's started accusing her of who knows what and you're concerned that if you're not straight up honest he'll prejudice people (those who might offer help) against her?  I ALWAYS believe the old adage "honesty is the best policy" but I don't think you need to be brutal (not that you were considering it).  So a simple "he was abusive, she decided she'd had enough" if they pry for details just smile and remind them that's not for you to tell.  Like Anne said upthread, being civilized and secretive only helps him (sorry Anne, I paraphrased).  

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Spend your support and time encouraging her to heal and be educated on the abuse dynamic. Getting OUT doesn't heal; it just means she is physically away from him. Also, it is VERY VERY possible he will do the following:

 

  1. Continue to abuse her through lies, exaggerations, and other manipulations with family and friends.
  2. Use the family court system to continue to abuse her.
  3. Use social media to try to power and control her by remote.

Have her read: Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Abusive and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft and The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans.

 

Don't expect family, friends, or the community to believe or support her. They may; but they may not for many complicated reasons. When the abuse is less documented, less overt, the less people believe and the more they pull out the "it takes two" or "everyone has a part" mantra.

 

I feel for your friend. If she can get professional, qualified support that would help a lot.

 

In terms of what to "say," I would go with some form of "She left an unhealthy situation." Lather, rinse, repeat.

 

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I feel for you, I had a friend in a similar situation. Sadly she is still with him and no longer my friend(I'd guess I'm no longer approved company). It just isn't safe to say much of anything, no matter how much you want to. I can so understand the desire to let everyone know, to defend your friend, to speak on her behalf when she is not able to on her own, my gosh I understand that feeling. Stay by her, find resources for her and be there whenever you can. (hugs)

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Unfortunately it could hurt her in court with the divorce proceedings if you say something. I know that is hard. If she is separated and thinks people will ask she should probably address those people directly and ask for their confidence. If she has/is moving, then just say she is moving and don't say why.

Truth and time walk hand in hand. Please be careful with what you say and the labels you use until any potential court proceedings, rulings or judgments are complete. Seems like you could just stick to the facts.

 

"They are separating/divorcing with good cause."

 

"The situation is complicated and friend is emotionally exhausted."

 

"Your support with a meal/groceries/transportation whatever will mean more than you can imagine during this transitional time."

 

"Friend may share more details in the future but I would like to help her get the assistance she needs right now, until the relationship issues are settled."

 

You can advocate for her without being overly specific. Astute people are adept at reading between the lines in these situations. When they want to engage further with "well he said" or "what I heard was...," respond with a sound bite like this: "There are a lot of details to friend's story, but it is friend's story to tell when she is ready and able. Right now what I can tell you is that I am fully aware of what's going on and I support her 100%." Camp out on that statement. You don't have to trash the stbx to state the truth. I agree with others that your friend will need to work up to being able to speak out the truth of the abuse®, but your role is not to speak for her. It is to help rally assistance for daily living as she gains the emotional strength to tell her own story out loud.

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Joanne, do you have similar resource suggestions that are not books? Specifically, I need resources that are videos of speakers.

 

Someone I care about needs resources but does not have the capacity to work through a book.

 

 

 

These articles are incredible, particularly the second one. Thank you for sharing.

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Please let's don't ever say this about domestic abuse.

 

Can you explain this a bit more?

 

To  me, the phrase "he said, she said" simply means a lack of evidence. If I don't witness a crime or behavior, or have any evidence of it, then I would be going on the person's word - what she said, or what he said. 

 

I do know that it can be very easy to hide domestic violence, very hard to get evidence, but those facts don't make me any more comfortable with publicly naming someone as an abuser (or a thief, or whatever) because someone tells me so. 

 

Of course, I definitely see where I'd want to do so anyway for a good friend, but I'm actually not sure how much it would help. It seems like it could backfire if he might retaliate. 

 

Back to my original question - is there more to the phrase that I'm not seeing? Is it a bad phrase to use simply because domestic abuse is so easy to hide? 

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Can you explain this a bit more?

 

To me, the phrase "he said, she said" simply means a lack of evidence. If I don't witness a crime or behavior, or have any evidence of it, then I would be going on the person's word - what she said, or what he said.

 

I do know that it can be very easy to hide domestic violence, very hard to get evidence, but those facts don't make me any more comfortable with publicly naming someone as an abuser (or a thief, or whatever) because someone tells me so.

 

Of course, I definitely see where I'd want to do so anyway for a good friend, but I'm actually not sure how much it would help. It seems like it could backfire if he might retaliate.

 

Back to my original question - is there more to the phrase that I'm not seeing? Is it a bad phrase to use simply because domestic abuse is so easy to hide?

I would guess she is referring to the fact that doubting the story of a domestic abuse victim can be so damaging to them and their ability to get out of the situation. Most people in this situation have been manipulated and gas lighted to the point where they aren't if sure if the abuse actually happened, or if they are crazy, or if they deserved it anyway. You can of have to see it to get how deep this kind of thinking goes.

Saying "he said, she said" is giving his voice as much power as hers. Which isn't generally a bad thing, unless she already doubts her voice completely and his voice is continually saying "you are crazy, you are making things up, you are actually the one abusing me..."

She hears that and then thinks to herself, "I guess there is no evidence, if I just try harder everything will be fine, what's wrong with me?" And then she ends up dead. So that's what's wrong with that.

 

But obviously going around denouncing the abuser doesn't help anybody and can be dangerous.

That's kind of the whole point of my question I think. Walking the line appropriately.

 

 

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