Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Friend’s Abusive Boyfriend

Every week, Mallory and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: I told my friend’s ex that her new boyfriend is an abuser.

Nicole: This is very hard!

Nicole: This is a bad world and sometimes we don’t have good, clear choices. I think the LW probably did the right thing, or at least a thing they can feel less badly about having done.

Mallory: Yeah, I feel complex about this too—I don’t know if there was a perfect response the LW could have had.

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Nicole: Kit would want to behave in the best way for her kid. Even if that’s not something she can access right now.
But it may be the end of this friendship. Which is also something you would have to live with.

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Mallory: I really understand that in the moment they had legitimate reason to believe Kit’s son might be getting abused.

and the LW told his father only after first trying to talk to Kit and being dismissed, which I think is an appropriate escalation.

Nicole: Yes, exactly.

Mallory: and I’m skeptical that Kit says he’s “changed” if he’s screaming at her son in front of other people

My inclination is to encourage the LW to say something like this to Kit —

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“I know that my telling your ex has hurt you, and that we may not see this situation in the same light. I know that you love your son and want what’s best for him. Given that I’ve seen firsthand the extent of your boyfriend’s physical abuse, and that I saw him recently screaming at your son, I don’t feel confident that he has changed or that it’s safe for him to be around children. I think it was the right thing to do, but I also care about you and want you and your son to be safe and well.”

I’m struck by the limits of this speech as I write this!

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especially inasmuch as I don’t believe, given what I’ve seen in this letter, that Kit is currently DOING what is best for her son, although she may think she is.

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Nicole: Right!

Mallory: and that’s a hard truth to acknowledge to a friend.

Nicole: That’s almost impossible to say.

Mallory: I think she WANTS to believe that Larry has changed, but that has more to do with wishful thinking than reality

Nicole: But I would want, if I were making these choices, my friends to know my true desire is that my child be safe and to act for that version of myself.

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Mallory: I think it was right for the LW to say “It was me who told your ex.”

Nicole: Yes, own it. Don’t fuel paranoia.

Mallory: I also agree that she may double down on her choices and be less likely to leave Larry if she feels like he’s being misunderstood or shunned

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but I don’t think that’s the only or even most important thing to consider here

I don’t think that the LW should ignore a clear sign of a possible threat to the son’s safety in the hopes that Kit MAY later leave Larry, especially given that the LW had already tried to express their concerns to Kit and Kit’s only response had been “He deserves a second chance” without going into detail about what, exactly, has changed.

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Nicole: No.

Mallory: but it IS so hard, because isolation is a very real factor in making it difficult for people to leave abusive partners

Nicole: I would definitely want her to have other people in her life around her that are supportive of her and that she DOES feel she can talk to.

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And for the LW to say to her that she can always call her, she is always here and understands why Kit is angry.

Mallory: Yes, I think that’s the best thing. Tell Kit you’re here for her, that you understand that she may not want to talk again, but that the door is always open on your end, and then accept the very real possibility that she may not want to speak to you.

Nicole: I think the LW has done all they can in a difficult situation and have to trust now that there’s no more they can do at present.