Dear Annie: I have a good friend who has been like a kid brother to me. He has always been a very thoughtful, caring, respectful man whom I’ve gotten along great with. This man has autism and borderline intellectual functioning, so I have always explained things so that he can better understand. I have had him over for a meal on several occasions; we enjoy playing board games, and I have taken him on a few day trips.
We care deeply for each other, not in a romantic way but like siblings. Enter his on-again, off-again girlfriend, who is physically, verbally and financially abusive. She has had him in tears, left marks on him and broken his glasses. She isolates him. She is an alcoholic whose behavior gets very bizarre, as well as dangerous, when she is drunk.
I have tried to get him to think for himself regarding her, but I have also told him that he doesn’t deserve to be hit or called nasty names or ridiculed.
He has confided to me that he is very unhappy, sometimes calling me for help, but later has gotten upset with me. The girlfriend is constantly harassing him over our friendship, so now he will not speak to me. I have called adult protective services; I don’t know what else I can do.
I am heartbroken that I have been cast off to the side. I thought I was his friend, his sister. The worst part is knowing that he is being abused and suffering in silence. I’ve tried to contact him, but he gets very upset over that. I feel as if I have lost my best friend, my brother, to a woman who treats him horribly. – Missing My Brother in Wisconsin
Dear Missing: Calling adult protective services was the right thing to do, and you should continue to call to report incidents of abuse. I understand that you feel hurt, but it’s important that you not take this personally. He has not cast you aside; he has become a victim of abuse. Be careful not to try to force his behavior, e.g., issuing an ultimatum that you can’t continue being friends with him while he dates her. That would only leave him feeling more isolated. So as hard as it is to watch him be subjected to this abuse, try to stay in the picture. You can help him make a safe escape plan when he’s ready. See the article “Supporting Someone Who Keeps Returning to an Abusive Relationship” on the National Domestic Violence Hotline website (https://www.thehotline. org), or call the hotline (800-799-7233) for guidance.
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