Around two years ago I found out that one of my closest friends was being abused by her stepdad. I know he would physically abuse her, and I’m pretty sure he mentally abused her too. She always dismissed it saying that he was drunk, but I could tell she still resented him and was very scared of him. She assured me that he never really hit her anymore but recently she would come to school with cuts on her face. When I asked her about it all she said was that she had been missing school because she was sick and her stepdad hated when she missed school. I was immediately concerned and considered reporting it but I knew my friend was scared that if the abuse was reported that she would get taken away from her mom and have to live with her dad in Florida. She hates her dad so much that she would rather ive with her abusive stapdad and she insist that her real dad is not fit to take care of here. I know she trusts me not to report it and I know if I did she would feel betrayed and would probably never forgive me. I normally would talk to my mom about this whole situation but she is a teacher and therefore is a mandated reporter. I need help deciding what to do. I try to be there for her but I feel horrible letting the abuse happen. should i report it and hope that if she does get removed from the household that she would go live with another family, like her grandparents who live in the same town, or should I just continue to be there for my friend?
Your friend is very lucky to have you. You are thoughtful and caring of her emotions, and this is exactly what she doesn’t have at home. With an abusive stepdad it means she also has to live with a mother who allows is abuse. Your friend has no real support at home because one parent is abusive and the other condones it. Your friendship is an important part of your friend’s ability to see this through. I admire your caring and love for your friend.
The best course of action for now is to support your friend and offer to go with her for some help. There is an organization called Alateen that helps teenagers cope with family members who have problems with alcohol. Her acknowledgement that his abuse often occurs after drinking is what qualifies her for this organization and your connection with your friend is enough of a qualification for you to go as well.
I’d look up on the internet where there are meetings near you and go together. No one there is mandated to report the abuse. But these groups are typically highly helpful in navigating the feelings that come with an abusive alcoholic parent and a neglectful one. In this way you can help your friend understand three things. First- that you can be there with her as an active source of support. Secondly that she is not alone. Sadly, many other teens have experienced what she is experiencing and they have been able to support and help each other through this 12-step program. Finally, when she is ready to break away from her family and move on to a mentally and physically healthier life there will be guidance.
I will also encourage you to call the local woman’s center. You can do it his anonymously to find out what resources they have. Again, sadly, there have been many abused and fearful children of abusive fathers and fearful mothers. They have real experience and counseling and support that can guide you further in helping your friend.
Your love and concern is a tribute to your friendship and your own health and well-being is very important. Please be sure when you talk to the woman’s center to express the difficulty behind having to keep your friends secret out of respect for her. This is a real concern for your well-being, and they will have some suggestions for you to take care of yours.
Wishing you patience and peace,