An abused victim is going to suffer horrendous emotional/psychological scars and signs of physical assault: bruising, scarring, broken bones, strained tendons and ligaments. The physical symptoms usually heal with little or no notice. But the emotional scars remain and they are the hardest to fully heal. Loss of trust is easily self evident, as the abusee may be reticent to talk about it, fearing that the person may judge or misjudge them and even side against them. Subsequently, comes an open floodgate of bad memories that may be repressed, or just bubbling at the surface. People who have been physically and psychologically mistreated by spouses, significant others, parents, other relatives and friends go through deep mistrust.
Trying to deal with this level of mistrust is one of several daunting tasks in helping them to recover. Nevertheless, human beings are very resilient and can recover over time-if conditions and treatment of them is conducive to their recovery. Even for those who do recover, trauma exists for a long time and may never go away totally. But even a moderate amount of recovery is better than them being perpetually traumatized. So you deal with the level of mistrust first. Giving them space and time in the beginning to sort through their conflicting and damaged emotions sets the stage for building trust. By not crowding abusees’, you are speaking volumes to them.
You are showing them that you are not rushing to judgement. Additionally, you are showing faith and trust in them. Sometimes, an abused individual has to go through stages of recovery/emotional reconstruction. Acting like they are weak and shattered can cause them to lose faith in themselves-possibly blaming themselves in the process. Giving them a little time and space, talking to them here and there in the interim, and letting them build up that trust again allows them to come to you and open up.
Bringing out these strained and damaged emotions starts to get it out in the open in a more controlled fashion, as the abusee has also had the time to sort through these emotions. If they have been badly abused, sometimes therapy and counseling is needed. But as a relative or a friend, you can also help by starting to talk and listen. Be a good listener-without passing judgement. Offer a hug, cry with them. Help to release pent-up emotions. Laugh and joke too. Start heading them in the right direction towards recovery. This doesn’t necessarily mean fixing them up with somebody new. Time, good listening, a big shoulder to cry on, and laughter is all good medicine on the road to their recovery.