5. Stay Quiet And Subtle
You may want to go HAM on the asshole who hurt your friend, which is completely understandable. But resist this temptation. Do not involve yourself with the other partner, and don’t talk sh*t about them online or in public forums. Don’t discuss the situation or your friend’s position anywhere that their ex could find the information and use it to access your friend after he or she has left.
If your friend is choosing to tell people about their partner, that’s their choice. You’re not allowed to go yelling around the streets that their dude or girl is an absolute horror, much as you want to. Do the opposite: reassure your friend that whatever they say to you stays with you, and stick to that even if their partner demands to know what’s going on. Lie if necessary. And never confront the abuser; keep yourself and your friend as safe as possible.
6. Reassure Them That You Believe Them
One of the most common elements of emotional abuse is the fostering of disbelief in the abused person’s sanity. They are made to doubt their own versions of events, memories, feelings and deepest emotional reactions. The National Domestic Violence Hotline explains that this destabilization gives the abuser a lot of power and control, because their version is set up as the only one to be trusted or believed. They also instill false beliefs based on the idea of the abused person’s psychological “instability” (Psychology Today names a few, like “nobody else will love you”, and “nobody will believe you, you’re crazy”).
One of your key roles as a supportive person in their process of entanglement is to reassert to them that their feelings, memories and opinions are valid and true. If you believe them, say so, repeatedly.
7. Know What Emotional Abuse Is
This is a good time to educate yourself about what precisely is going on, how it might affect your friend, and what it may mean for your friendship down the line. The Counselling Directory, Psychology Today and Living Without Abuse are excellent resources to challenge any of your misconceptions, and give you a big picture about what living with that kind of abuse is really like. (It’ll be hard reading, so take care of yourself.) I’d also highly encourage anybody in a supportive role to seek advice from professional organizations dealing with abuse, who will likely be able to give personally tailored advice on the situation; seek out an organization like WOMAN INC. Emotional abuse counts as very real abuse, and these people will be willing to help you and your friend.
And there’s one very important thing to know about abusive relationships, emotional or otherwise: the risk to your friend is greatest when they choose to leave and immediately afterward. This is, statistically, a dangerous and fraught time, so reading up will give you the best resources to help your friend protect themself.