Abuse of all kinds can be difficult to spot.
But when it comes to narcisstic abuse, it can be even trickier to get a handle of what’s going on.
We’ve broken down some signs that someone may be experiencing abuse at the hands of a narcissist, but what happens after you see these?
It’s natural to feel helpless, to panic and freeze, or to worry about doing or saying the wrong thing.
But there are ways to offer support.
‘If you sense that your loved one – either your friend, sibling, parent or son or daughter may be suffering at the hands of a narcissistic abusive partner, it can be very difficult to know exactly what the right thing to do is,’ says Emma Davies, a narcissistic abuse expert and founder of My Trauma Therapy.
‘It is a hugely tricky situation to navigate as you want to appear supportive to your loved one but you also don’t want to over-step the mark, or find yourself completely cut off by the partner in question, leaving your loved one even more isolated.’
Ahead, Emma explains what to do if you suspect someone you care about is experiencing narcissistic abuse.
Don’t be afraid to ask
We know, it’s an awkward situation. You don’t want to cause offence by suggesting something is wrong. But opening up the conversation could make all the difference.
‘Do not be afraid to ask if they are ok – sometimes victims try their hardest to act ok as they are scared to open up at the fear of being judged,’ says Emma. ‘Sometimes, hearing somebody else say they notice a difference in them can be all it takes for a victim to open up.’
Let them know you’re there to support them
What your loved one needs most right now is to have someone they can talk to, who understands what’s going on.
‘Offer support where you can and be there when they need you,’ Emma says. ‘Sometimes it might take a while for a victim to come to terms with that is happening to them and no matter what you say, the victim must see it for themselves.
‘Let them know you are there to listen or to help in any way.
‘To have a good support network around them in so critical as if a victim feels alone and isolated it is a lot harder to leave an abuser or to admit them are being abused.
‘Let your loved one know that you believe them if they confide in you and that you are there to help in any way you can.
‘Being believed is a huge relief for a victim to hear, even if you don’t quite understand what is happening to them.’
Keep in contact
Regularly checking in is key, as a narcissist will try to isolate their victims.
Narcisstic abuse often involves lowering someone’s self-worth and making them doubt themselves, so when someone is suffering this, they may stop reaching out due to fear of being a burden or seeming ‘crazy’.
That’s why it’s key that you’re the one to maintain contact.
Create a code word
An abuser might start monitoring their victim’s communications. Come up with a code word that signifies they’re in trouble and need urgent help.
Don’t blame them
Emma says: ‘Do not get angry with the victim and be patient with them. As frustrating as it is to keep seeing them go back or continually making excuses for their partner’s abusive behaviour this is all part of the process and the last thing the victim needs is to be treated as if they are doing something wrong.’
Don’t lash out at their abuser
When you suspect someone you care about is being abused, your instinct might be to give the abuser a piece of your mind. But this could do more harm than good.
‘As hard as it will be, be nice to the abuser while your loved one is with them, so they have little reason for them to try and break contact with you,’ Emma explains. ‘If the abuser sees you as someone who is not on their side, they will quickly try to break the relationship between you and your loved one as they don’t want them to feel they have help and support from others.
‘It’s basically keeping the enemy close so you still can keep an eye on your loved one.’
This will be immensely helpful if it comes to taking the situation to the police. They might not be able to safely keep evidence of what’s happening, so if you can, do.
‘Document everything on their behalf – keep messages, pictures, voicemails and emails that they share with you,’ says Emma.
Help them make a safety plan
Emma tells us: ‘Offer to hold vital belongings if they are planning on leaving their abuser such as clothes, passports, money and important documentation.
‘Provide them with support numbers and helpful information of organisations that can help.
‘Offer a place of sanctuary if the abuse gets to the point they need to leave quickly.’
For more information about narcissistic abuse, join the Victims Of Narcissistic Abuse support group on Facebook, where Emma holds weekly online meetings.
You can also access the Relate helpline by calling 0300 100 1234. It’s open Monday to Thursday 8am to 10pm, Friday 8am to 6pm, and Saturday 9am to 5pm.
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