How Can I Help a Friend Get Out of an Abusive Situation?

“A 24 year old girl I met a while back is having problems with her children’s father. She constantly tries to leave him but every time she tries he threatens to take their 2 year old daughter and 4 year old son. She’s quite timid about the whole situation, and though I can’t prove it I also believe he abuses her. She’s told me that he has threatened her before, but has never admitted to him actually hitting her. He also has a history of drug abuse and violent behavior. I want to know if there is anything I can do to help her? Though I am an outsider to the whole situation, I know she’s trapped and wants out. I believe she is too affraid of losing her children to do anything, and I want to offer some assistance. Is there anything I can do? Or do I just remain a spectator and continue to be disgusted with the fact I can’t help her out?”

Friends are not mandatory reporters to Protective Services, so you are not under a legal obligation to do anything. If you know about a crime, you could report that to the police. It does not sound like you have that. There does not seem to be any legal action for you to take.

The one with rights to protect may be your friend. If she is suffering from abuse, she could exercise her rights and get a restraining order or file a police report. She could file a paternity case and have visitation, custody and boundaries set. However if she is unwilling or unable (perhaps because of fears rooted in her own history) to seek legal recourse on her own behalf there is little you as a friend can do legally. Encourage her to get counseling. She could join a battered partner group. But pretty much it’s going to be up to her.

Recommended Reading (click on the picture for details):
Battered Women and Their Families: Intervention Strategies and Treatment Programs