How a good friend could have helped me

How best to explain the impact of one reliable friendship in these situations than a testimony from a survivor of domestic abuse herself, who didn’t have the luxury of that one confidante?

I am Kristin Mathiesen, one of Chayn’s longterm volunteers and a survivor of domestic violence. While I never really had a friend when I was going through that phase of my life, working on this guide helped me realise how beneficial and immensely helpful even one friendship could have been.

Today, I can write about what happened. I am free now. I haven’t seen or heard from my ex-partner since he was arrested.

But if you met me three years ago, you’d have met a very different Kristin. I was living with my then partner and my two very young daughters. Somehow, the responsibility of everyone in my household was mine. My partner was always complaining about “his suffering,” and how he was misunderstood. He was never well enough to look after the kids, our kids.

To add to it, he had a terrible temper, one that led him to impart violence against me in more than one occasion. Somehow, I was always the one to blame. For everything that happened to me, him, and us. It was me who had to change for him to get better.

Why didn’t I leave him immediately? Because I believed him. Because he threatened to commit suicide because he couldn’t live without me.

We were always broke, as neither of us were working. I was always looking after the children. Slowly, I started to feel isolated — all alone. At times, I really wish I had a good friend at that time. All I really needed was someone, anyone, who would have approached me and asked if my relationship was bad. Only if someone had asked me to confide in them, and offered to help.

To be honest, I never told anyone, or asked for help until that day when I went to the police. I could never do it out of fear, shame and embarrassment.

It was only after my beautiful daughters were born that things really started to go downhill. Suddenly, the reality of my situation hit me and I realised that I could not let my children grow up in such an abusive and negative environment.

But I was terrified of what might happen if I did leave, and I didn’t know where to go. It is ironic that I know now what I could have done, who I could have contacted and where I could have gone.

However, back then, I felt so small and unimportant, and just didn’t think that the abuse I experienced was bad enough to warrant any help. It may seem surprising but I never talked to anyone about the abuse, and no one ever asked me if I was being abused.

But I do think that if someone had asked me just once, I wouldn’t have been able to keep it to myself any longer. Makes me wonder, maybe that would have helped me get out of that relationship much sooner.

It is with these thoughts that we put together this guide for you. Often, a good friend, that one listener can make all the difference.

I hope the Good Friend Guide will help more people feel confident enough to approach friends, family, and other loved ones if you suspect they are trapped in an abusive relationship. Maybe, more women will get help to get away sooner.