Abused friend returns to husband

A textbook case of domestic abuse

The friend I wrote about several days ago that has been psychologically, sexually, and physically abused by her husband has returned to him after fleeing from their home. I don’t know the details, but I do know that she has spoken to him by phone; and he’s agreed to go to couples counseling with her.

In theory, this sounds good, but color me skeptical.

Apparently, this was the second time that she’d left him since getting married, and their wedding was only several months ago. In that time, from the little I know, he commandeered her computer and tablet, and he deleted contacts from her phone without her permission. I’m certain these examples of abuse are only the tip of the iceberg.

She’s pregnant

Based upon what we know, our friend is almost certainly pregnant, which makes her situation so much more challenging.

Her unborn child will render her forever tied to her abuser, for he is the father; abortion is not something she would consider. Also, she, ever the kind, gentle optimist, holds out unfounded hope that he will change his behavior and be a good father to their child (he already has children from a previous marriage, and she claims that he is a good father to them).

The pregnancy increases her desire to ‘make the marriage work’, which, from the perspective of her friends (including us) seems very ill-advised. However, her being pregnant means that time is working against her, in terms of the ease with which she potentially could establish her freedom from him.

She has very few resources

Our friend is an immigrant to Israel with no family in this country; her immediate family is spread around the world, and none of her relatives have been to Israel. Immigrants like her have very little structural support locally, so they have to rely upon the kindness of whatever friends they’ve made since moving here.

Relatedly, she has very few financial resources and no higher education, which limits her employment options. Her husband is not well off either, but two incomes are obviously still better than one when it comes to supporting a child, which goes back to her pregnancy.

Beyond all of the above, divorce proceedings are costly in and of themselves, which discourages low income couples from divorcing. This happens to be a contributing factor behind increases in incidents of domestic violence during economic downturns… Impoverished couples that ought to get divorced but cannot afford to do so end up remaining together – despite their crumbled marriages.

Nothing we can do

Our friend came to stay at our home when she fled from her husband last week, just before we left for our vacation in Haifa. She was here for a week; and she could have stayed for longer as far as we were concerned. In fact, we were expecting her to still be here when we returned this afternoon.

Now, she’s back with him again, and it’s not clear whether and when it’s safe for us, as her friends, to contact her. Has her husband commandeered the new phone she bought last week? At what hours is it safe to call her? Is he still tracking her movements on Google Maps?

These are horrible questions to be asking ourselves; we feel utterly helpless.

Of course, whenever she needs to, she can always come stay with us again… And, yes… I do believe it will be a matter of when – not if.

99 thoughts on “Abused friend returns to husband”

  1. I’m so sorry your friend is in this situation. Your friendship is probably more important than you know and could make all the difference.

  2. This is so sad. Unfortunately, abuse survivors do generally take several attempts to finally leave their partners. The pregnancy does complicate things even more (and make a potential agunah situation more intractable, sadly).

  3. Children can’t mend broken relationships. That’s just a silly theory that aggravates the dilemma further. I feel sad after reading this. Your friend does appear to be stuck. I pray that she’s able to find some resolution to this…

  4. The friendship you hold out to her is a lifeline. When she is ready a way will open up. Until then the best you can offer is non-judgemental support whenever she asks for it. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is watch others go through this kind of abuse, but fear of not being able to cope and make a new life often limit our awareness of choices. Until we walk through that door, we cannot know what will be on the other side. Forgive the platitudes, but my heart goes out to her.

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