I'm worried about my neighbour
I have a neighbour who is abused occasionally — she is embarrassed and hides from me for a few weeks after — what should I do? I feel she will turn inwards further if I try to talk to her about it.
Thank you for writing in. I really appreciate you for caring enough to write in and ask for help. You are doing exactly what we want people to do so thank you and well done!
What your neighbour is doing is normal for women in her situation. A lot of people who are being abused feel ashamed and embarrassed and upset that they are in this situation. It is a very emotional time as well with many conflicting emotions going on, so to open up is not easy.
However, there are things that you can do. May I suggest that you try and make contact with her, face to face, and let her know that you are just wanting to see if she's ok and ask if there's anything she needs. Let her know that you are there for her, right next door and that if she ever needs you she can come to you.
I think it's important to know that if you go there she may, out of embarrassment, say nothing, but please don't let that get in the way of letting her know that you care and that she does have support if she wants it. This is such an important time and we want and need her to know that no matter what, she does have someone supporting her. What can happen is that women will withdraw and not let anyone near them and then when things get worse they have no-one to turn to and that makes it a very dangerous situation. It's a time when no judgement is needed, just people with caring hearts who want to help.
When you talk to her, if you feel comfortable doing this, it may be that you invite her over for a coffee. She will probably say no at first but maybe if you continue to ask eventually she may say yes and that could open up opportunities to help her. I think when a relationship of trust has been established all sorts of conversations can take place which could benefit her in so many ways, but first things first.
One of the messages I believe is important for her to know is that none of the abuse is her fault, that she has done nothing to deserve it and that there are many supports and services available to help her if she wants them. It's important for her also to know that she isn't being judged and that if she stays then that doesn't mean that we will stop caring and wanting to help her. (This is so often the case and it just makes it harder for victims of abuse to seek help as they are left so alone).
Lastly I would like to add that please keep very much in mind your own safety. Don't do anything that may put you at any risk and if you do decide to make contact with her please make sure it's safe for her as well (the perpetrator is out or at work.). If by chance she will open up to you may I suggest that you talk to her about a safety plan to help keep her safe if things get out of hand.
This plan includes having things like a pre-arranged place to go to anytime day or night where she will be welcome and she doesn't have to ring and ask first, having some money put away for a taxi or having a spare set of car keys put away (in a secret safe place) so that if she needs to get away in a hurry she can. Having her important documents put away, some clothes. These plans have saved women's lives so it's definitely something to encourage if she is going to stay in this relationship.
If you feel that this is something you're not comfortable talking to her about you could suggest that she contact the local women's refuge who could talk to her about these things. It's also important to know that if you hear anything that is alerting you that she may be being hurt you can contact the Police on 111.
I hope this helps and again thank you for caring. If there's anything else I can help with please don't hesitate to write back in. If your neighbour would like to write in I would be happy to help her.
I wish you all the best.
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