The following is based on a number of things. I am going through some horrible stuff right now, that I can't deny. But this post is NOT about me. This is a post for women. (Although men aren't exempt from this either.) I haven't written this alone - Internet forums and a social worker have helped me to put this together. This is for those stuck in these various situations. Face value. Capisce?
The best thing you can do for a friend if they're being cheated on, is to tell them. If you're the last person to find out, this is almost worse than than the cheating itself. There's a high price for humiliation and trust.
The best you can do a for friend when you worried about how they're being treated, is listen to them. And be there for them IF the chips do fall.
Telling a person what to do in this situation is not going to work. They'll eventually be forced to choose sides, and down the line, they'll stop talking. You can offer your ears and your shoulder if things go wrong. Work with them, not against them.
The best you can do for a person who has been hurt physically and emotionally is to also listen to them. It is very difficult to understand the full extent of the situation if you haven't been there yourself. So just listen.
The best thing to realise is that some situations are more complex than what the stereotypes purvey.
Realise that people can change. I've seen this enough times to believe it. So always give people a chance. I've also seen people react differently with different people. Have faith in them.
Abuse can happen at work, or at home. You can't see verbal abuse. But sometimes this is worse than physical abuse itself. Abuse consists of name-calling, shouting, belittlement, isolation, physical harm, coercion, threats.
There are numbers of reasons why the person doesn't leave. Love, the hope it will get better, fear, unfounded optimism, fear of no support, pressure to make it work, religious beliefs, their self-esteem is shot, or they're apathetic, they don't want the "relationship to fail", the list goes on.
In the same grain, sometimes leopards do not change their spots. But they can if they try hard enough.
Try not to judge people based on the few facts you have about them, their situation or their past.
People who are in/have been in bad domestic situations have a number of reactions to very small triggers. If the fridge door doesn't close properly, and they collapse in tears, just listen. You don't have to understand, but you can listen.
People are multi-faceted. This is important to remember. If they handle things badly in certain situations, or are bad in a crisis, or have anger management problems, this doesn't mean they're bad people at heart. (As Izzie said so correctly in Grey's Anatomy last night - “People who do horrible things aren't necessarily horrible people.”)
Often people blame themselves for being abused (verbal, physical, psychological, etc etc). Or feel that whatever has happened to them is somehow their fault. This falls across many spectrums, from manipulation to battery and rape.
Often the most unsubservient, strong, outspoken and independent people are those that find themselves in a situation of emotional hostage. Always remember that stuff happens behind closed doors, even if the likeliness seems out of your realm of understanding.
And lastly, please don't read into this too much. I am not a psychologist, and I'd also prefer it if you don't relay this as “This is what Peas is sad about obviously.” I am far removed from any of these situations, that I can promise. These above suggestions simply might apply to anyone who can relate – or just know someone who has been in these circumstances.
In the meantime, I sift through my particular crap. Over lots of coffee, because I'm not sleeping too hot.