Please note: Entries within this blog may contain reference to instances of domestic abuse, dating abuse, sexual assault, abuse or harassment. At all times, Break the Cycle encourages readers to take whatever precautions necessary to protect themselves emotionally and psychologically.  If you would like to speak with an advocate, please contact a 24/7 peer advocate at 866-331-9474  or text "loveis" to 22522.

Dear Friend: What Your Support During An Abusive Relationship Really Meant

Dear Old Friend, 
 
It’s been a long time and yet I realized something recently. I never really thanked you. Sure, we thanked each other for the little things, birthdays and Christmases. We had a lot of fun. We fought a lot. We did our best to figure out what direction to go, and, I’m confident, neither one of us could’ve foreseen where we’d wind up. I’m grateful for our time together. But I’m especially grateful for your friendship when something devastating happened to me.
 
I’m sure you remember that day when you and me, and my boyfriend, were hanging out at my house. You were downstairs and I was upstairs, still sleeping. I’d worked late while trying to finish school. I wasn’t getting much sleep. But, demanding as he was, he wanted me up and paying attention to him. When I didn’t budge, he flew into a fury. The details of that moment are difficult to write about, or even think about, and I’ve only written about that day once. But when he hurt me, I screamed. And you were immediately in the doorway. He stood over me as I wept and you angrily asked what had happened. He told you we had a fight and to give us a moment alone. I didn’t fight that demand, because I was in a blur of pain and shock. It’s hard to remember much else about that moment, or what he said, or what I said. But hours later, he’d gone. I’d smiled dutifully as he went out the door, back home for work the next morning, and then it was just me and you. I don’t recall that conversation either. But a little while later, I was in the emergency room. And you were by my side. 
 
I was given crutches and appointments were made for physical therapy that I didn’t want to make. The spiral into depression and denial had already begun. But what I keep returning to is the light you provided. Looking back, I realize you were the one person I was confiding the whole truth to. You saw him for what he was. And you became my voice. You hated him and made no secret of it, even when he was around. That drove him crazy, but, secretly, I loved it. You were saying what I wanted to, as I tried to love him or was too afraid to love myself, you did it all for me. 
 
What I didn’t tell you, was that the first time, really wasn’t the first time. He’d kicked me once, so hard my legs gave out. I was so stunned I laughed it off as I pulled myself up, staring at him in disbelief. He was on the phone and I was “annoying” him and kicking me seemed like probably no big deal. Of course I should’ve seen it then, but I didn’t want to. I wish I’d been able to articulate the reasons why I was staying, but I never could. It took me a long time to understand that. 
 
girls running through field

But what I want to thank you for is that light. Through all of it, you were my laughter, my peace, my safe haven. When it was just us, it was still so much fun. We cooked and watched movies. We listened to music and talked like music critics. We were very serious in our beliefs and thoughts, but we were also goofy girls who spent nights prank calling a mutual ex-boyfriend and dressing each other up as our “opposite selves.” I’m smiling now.

In the depths of the darkness, even when I refused to see the truth, you kept the truth alive for me. You cared for me. You fought for me. You made sure I was still me, even as I lost sight of that. Really, I hadn’t truly found my sense of myself yet. And he took advantage of that. You, on the other hand, saw my best self and you encouraged the best parts of me. 
 
We went through some rough moments that led to us drifting apart, but that’s your story. I wish that I could’ve been there for you more when you needed me. In the end, we went where we needed to go in order to grow more. And that was apart. We found new adventures, built our new adult lives, and healed our wounds how we felt necessary. We reconnected a few times, but did I ever really thank you? Do you know how special and important your friendship was when I was abused and my spirit was broken? I hope you read this. I want you to know. I’ll always love you. And I’ll always be grateful. 
 
Thank you, old friend.
Jessica Quiroli 
 
Jessica is a member of the national coalition of caring adults working to stop teen dating abuse Love Is Not Abuse. Follow her on Twitter.
 
Editor's Note
Helping a friend isn't always easy, but your voice of support can change the course of someone's life - just like Jessica's friend did for her. If a friend or family member tells you that they are being abused, start off by saying, "I believe you, and you don't deserve this." You don't have to have all the answers; offer to go with them to talk with an advocate or legal services provider. Your friend or family member may return to their abuser several times before making the final decision to leave. Though this can be frustrating, it's important to understand that giving ultimatums like, "If you don't leave them, I'm going to stop talking to you," can be harmful, though well-intentioned. An abuser will try to isolate their victim from their support system, making themselves the center of the victim's world and extremely difficult for the person experiencing abuse to leave. That being said, it's important to practice self-care for yourself as well. Take a break if you are feeling worn-down or overwhelmed by the situation; just make it clear that when your friend needs you, you'll be ready to help them navigate the situation. We all have a hand in stopping dating abuse, and that begins by being a loving, supportive friend and family member. Concerned about a friend? Get more information and resources for helping a friend here and take our healthy relationship quiz. Talk with a peer advocate about your relationship 24/7 by texting "loveis" to 22522