How to Help Someone in an Abusive Relationship

The toll of intimate partner violence struck close to home this week and with this weighing on her mind, Jess discusses nine strategies for supporting a loved one who is dealing with an abusive partner. This isn’t a private issue, it’s a public health crisis and we have to do more to protect those at risk.

Content warning: I will be talking about violence and the death of someone in my community.

I will be reading some of the details of a recent death, so if you don’t feel comfortable hearing about intimate partner violence and death, please stop this podcast now. This may not be for you.

Last weekend Dr. Amie Harwick, a marriage and family therapist who focused on relationships and sex was killed. She was killed in her home and was found below a third floor balcony with evidence of manual strangulation according to news reports. Her ex has been charged with murder.

According to reports from court documents from 2011 & 2012, her ex choked, suffocated, pushed, kicked, slammed her head into the ground and refused to get help. He pushed her out of a car. He broke into her housing complex, smashed ten picture frames against her door, left 4 dozen flowers taped to her door and left a note warning that things would get worse.

A restraining order was enacted against him. It expired two weeks prior to her death.

I don’t know why restraining orders expire. I’m not an expert in legal protections against violent partners and exes. But my intuition is that they shouldn’t expire.

There is now a petition on change.org called Justice 4 Amie. The creator, suggests that some changes to protect those dealing with a violent or abusive partner begin with:

1. No expiration date or a longer protection term and to not be lifted until victim requests it to be cancelled. (In reference to restraining orders.)

2. Mandatory long-term counselling for the stalker/abuser. If they are deemed a harm to the victim or society, then institutionalization may be ordered.

3. Victims should not have to testify in a courtroom close to their abuser/stalker. There should be an option to live stream in a safe space in a satellite location for the hearing with the judge. It’s a traumatic experience that the victim is already dealing with and should not be subjected to it again if they do not feel they can. That is why many abusers get away with their actions: many victims back out of trial due to fear of facing their perpetrator.

Amie ran into this ex at an industry event a few weeks before her death.

According to a friend who is quoted in several news outlets, the ex went ballistic and was abusive and threatening. Amie said she was scared he would show up at her home. She went to the police, but they did not take it seriously.

You may have read headlines about Amie’s death or seen photos of her with celebrity comedian Drew Carey because they also used to date.

I want to read a message from a close mutual friend, Dr. Hernando Chaves that sums up what I’m thinking because I think he says it better than I will right now:

“She did everything she could do to protect herself, and this person still sought her out and was violent toward her,” Chaves said. “That is what people I hope are going to see — not the sensationalism of her dating Drew Carey or being a ‘Hollywood sex therapist’… but that our system is not protecting women.”

I’ve been really anxious since I heard the news. I’m angry. I’m so sad. I’m sad obviously for Amie and her family and loved ones who were closer to her than I was, but I’m also sad that in a world where we take so many precautions to protect the public, we still aren’t doing what it takes to protect those at risk of violence from their partners.

Amie and I had a lot in common. We were supposed to meet on Tuesday in Hollywood. She was so smart. I interviewed her for my podcast a few years ago and she helped me to manage some of my people pleasing tendencies on the air.

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