What should I do if someone at TWHJ claims to be in an ongoing abusive situation and requests my help to escape it?

While your response is ultimately up to you, the administration of TWHJ does not support or participate in “rescue” efforts. An exception to this is in the case of mandated reporting of the abuse of minors. Since we refer those under age 18 elsewhere to sites which are equipped to deal with them, this circumstance will be rare. But with respect to adults (over age 18) who report that they experience continued abuse, here are some issues for consideration.

  • There is no way to accurately assess the reality of another person’s life solely over the web. People can and do misrepresent their circumstances for a variety of reasons.
  • People who are in distress cannot be sure that others who offer to “help” are safe people. If we promote rescue efforts, we can’t know for certain that we are helping people to true safety and not just promoting an “out of the frying pan and into the fire” experience.
  • People who have been abused may require support or assistance for an extended period of time. How long would you be willing or able to make a commitment to help? What if support is still required in two, three, five years? Are you setting yourself up to disappoint the person you seek to help because of their unrealistic expectations of your availability and resources?
  • Adults who are being abused have options for help in the U.S. and elsewhere, and social service programs which can help them in various ways. But first and foremost, they need to do what they can to help themselves. They need to call the police, report the abuse, and be willing to accept realistic help as it is offered. If they are not willing or able to do these things, then the long-term success of a “rescue” attempt may be questionable.
  • Another consideration for someone in a family who is considering helping someone in such straits is whether or not there are children present in the family who might be adversely impacted by the person seeking help. We know that sometimes, but not always, people perpetuate the abuse that was done to them. Of course, this would be tragic for everyone — but not an outcome which is totally unexpected. Also, what if the person you seek to help becomes re-traumatized while in your care, or makes allegations that they are being harmed by you or your family? You and your family need protection, too.
  • We have no way to assess the mental health status of people over the internet. Can you be sure you are not inviting someone into your life who has severe behavioral or social problems or even a history of serious criminal behavior?

    For these reasons, people who are needing help need to find social services to help them in ways that have safe boundaries — in their own town or in a nearby city.

    If the person in question has been participating at TWHJ very long, you can be assured that others have already suggested reasonable alternatives for him or her. Perhaps the best course of action would be to encourage follow-up on the advice given by others.

    As one friend of mine wryly said, “Try lending a hand, and not the whole body.” Listening, responding, supporting in the message forums can be extremely valuable in and of itself. Don’t underestimate what you can do from afar!

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