Domestic Violence Discussion with
Jennifer Bowles, MSW, LCSW

Jennifer Bowles is a licensed clinical social worker currently working in California as a medical social worker at a county hospital. She obtained her Master's degree in social work from U.C.L.A. Since graduating in 1993 she has worked in a variety of settings, including private practice, with children and families, frail elderly, and chronically and terminally ill clients. Prior to becoming a social worker she was a deputy sheriff. She believes this law enforcement background provided her with an increased sensitivity to abuse issues, including domestic violence.

She has seen first hand the damage domestic violence does to the individual and family. It crosses all demographic barriers: financial, racial, ethnic, age and sexual orientation.

Our thanks to Jennifer Bowles!


73. StorkNet Member: I'm not sure what to think about my situation, I'm hoping you can help. I don't even know if this is the right place to put this, but there doesn't seem to be anywhere else. I'm a woman and I've been close friends with another woman since elementary school (12 or so years). It wasn't any sort of lesbian relationship, but she was the closest relationship I'd ever had; she was my best friend.

Here's where the problem is. She could be a very sweet, happy person one day, but the next day she would seem to completely hate me. It was a cycle that swung more and more into the negative over the years, and oddly enough, she never showed this behavior with her other friends. I thought I was just stressed and imagining it, but when I started writing down some of the things she'd said everyday, it became pretty clear that she was being extremely hurtful. However, I felt guilty. She was going through problems like manic depression and panic attacks, and it felt like whatever she did was justified by that. But I still cared for her and worried over her very much so I thought then that I should just suck it up and be there for her. However, it eventually became too much for me to handle. I was giving as much support as I could but was getting indifference or disgust whenever I needed to discuss a problem. Thankfully, at that time a loving man came into my life and helped me see clearly for the first time in years. He pointed out to me that I myself was beginning to develop depression and cutting tendencies because of this relationship. I eventually built up my strength and left.

I'm sorry this is taking so long... it feels good to pour out my heart like this.

I'm wondering though... is what she did abuse? Or was it just the strain of her life overflowing on me? Am I perhaps too sensitive? I've never seen anyone talk about emotionally abusive friendships. Also, how can I heal? Despite knowing that what I did was for the best, I still feel guilty for leaving. I've talked to her a few times after I left (we have mutual friends and run into each other) but these discussions only end up making me terribly upset. She says that it's preposterous that she had ever hated me, and brings up times when she did a few kind things for me, and says that I just must have "misheard." But I know I didn't. I've decided to cut off all communication if possible. I'm tired of being hurt by her. Is this the right thing to do? I don't like leaving a relationship in turmoil like that, but I feel like there's nothing I can do. Well, thank you very much for listening to me and reading this long, long, long question(s)!

Jennifer: You have certainly been through a lot with this woman and over a long period of time. You sound like you were and are a kind, loving person that ended up being the scapegoat for your friend's problems. Was it abuse? Absolutely. It is not considered "domestic violence" unless it is occurring between domestic partners (or witnessed by children, etc). But what it sounds like you went through was abusive treatment by someone who should have treated you better. It is understandable that you shrugged off her behavior over time if your friend was having difficulties, but there comes a point where it is damaging to continue in such a toxic (yes like poison!) relationship.

Your self worth likely took a lot of hits from her and it probably has taken a long time for you to recover from that. I am glad you had a loving man who was able to help you see the damage that was being done to you in the name of friendship. I had a conversation with a bright young woman awhile ago. She describe being treated by her best friend in a very shoddy manner. She told me that she had watched this woman over the years make friends with others and then become mean and vindictive with them. This young woman thought that her friend would never turn that venom onto her, but of course it did happen and it was a very painful lesson for her. She has taken that lesson however and learned from it. She chooses people for friends who are kind and caring in a genuine way, that treat others with respect and compassion. This is seen in the way they treat strangers as well as close friends and is mirrored in how they view the world (i.e. other cultures, ethnicities, etc...anyone who is "different" from them). She has found that when she finds someone who has these qualities, she has found someone worthy of her friendship. I imagine you are able to spot these characteristics in others as you possess them yourself.

I think your decision to cut off the relationship with this toxic woman was wise. You deserve to be treated as you treat others. It is possible that this woman has some sort of personality disorder or is mentally ill. For that you can feel pity and compassion, but letting go of the relationship is a good sign that you are much healthier now. Trust yourself to know when someone is hurting you purposely and know that that cruel behavior is something you do not ever need to tolerate. Thank you for a very thought provoking question, and best of luck in your life.

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Questions and Answers (Click on the linked numbers below):

 1.  Husband's temper
 2.  Divorced, did not keep documentation for protection. What should I do?
 3.  I'm getting divorced. Do I tell the judge about my husband's anger? Should my daughter be with him?
 4.  How do I find an Abuse Center in My area?
 5.  How can I help my friend see that she's in a cycle of abuse?
 6.  Thank you, Jennifer
 7.  Is verbal abuse considered domestic violence?
 8.  I've left my husband - why do I feel so sad and guilty?
 9.  I'm being abused but no one can tell.
10. How does domestic abuse affect the children of the marriage?
11. When do you get past the damage?
12. Husband abusive and terminal. I'm pregnant. Can I make it on my own?
13. Therapists and false memories
14. Who do we tell if a child in my son's class is being molested?
15. My children are afraid of their father but he has part custody, what do I do?
16. This relationship is tearing down her self-confidence piece by piece.
17. I got away from the abuse but now my daughter is suffering.
18. Why do so many women end up in abusive relationships?
19. Is yelling verbal abuse?
20. Steps toward recovery?
21. Parents drinking affects the holidays
22. My dad was verbally abusive to me and I now suffer from low self esteem.
23. I can hear the neighbors fighting. What should I do?
24. My ex says no to counseling, but I want my kids to go.
25. Is my boyfriend showing signs of being abusive?
26. How can I prevent visitation rights?
27. Question about one of Jennifer's comments
28. Finding strength and independence
29. I worry so much about my children when they are with him and his new wife.
30. My friend got out of one abusive relationship and into another.
31. Helping my brother with his temper
32. My husband is an alcoholic.
33. My sister is abusing me.
34. My mom was abusive. Will I be too?
35. Abusive husband and a new baby
36. How is past abuse from my deceased husband affecting my 4 1/2 year old?
37. My best friend chose a controlling boyfriend, just like her father. Help me explain to her.
38. My husband intimidates me into sex. Is this abuse?
39. Husband has anxiety and is becoming violent
40. Separated, pregnant and thinking of working things out with abusive husband
41. Question about verbal abuse?
42. Is my boyfriend abusive?
43. Ex-husband and unpaid child support
44. Surviving molestation
45. Our arguing has turned physical now
46. I left my verbally abusive husband
47. Woman realizes she is the abuser
48. Husband's health is making him angry
49. Abuse and chronically ill
50. Abusive relationship and going through divorce proceedings
51. Granddaughter may lose custody
52. Relationship with abusive boyfriend is like obsession
53. Very afraid of abusive, threatening husband
54. Are my boyfriend's actions abusive?
55. I worry that my children will be molested because I was
56. Why do women stay or have a hard time leaving?
57. I need help to get away. What can I do?
58. Elderly parents are abusing each other, alcohol involved.
59. Is my daughter being abused by her stepmom?
60. Do you discuss female domestic violence towards men and children?
61. Friend keeps going back to abusive boyfriend
62. Alcohol problems as teens related to growing up in a violent home?
63. I left my abuser... a message of hope
64. How to help a pregnant friend
65. Resources for domestic violence in the military?
66. Nephew in abusive relationship
67. My husband is too controlling
68. Advice from someone who stayed
69. I left and now I'm confused
70. Thank you, Jennifer
71. My husband mentally abuses me
72. I've taken steps to leave my abusive husband, but am worried about my daughter
73. Abuse in friendships?
74. Why do women oppose mandatory reporting?
75. My husband is frightening me with his anger
76. Am I becoming my father?
77. Love and abuse
78. Boyfriend threatens me
79. Husband wants me to get an abortion, is verbally abusive.
80. My mother-in-law is harrassing us
81. Children verbally abusive like their father
82. Son and daughter-in-law's arguing affecting grandson
83. Should I call my husband on each verbal abuse?
84. My fiancÚ babysits and I am worried about his temper
85. My friend's child is affected by abuse by father
86. Every time he hits me, he blames me for it, then repents, apologizes and feels bad.
87. Acquaintances from church--the woman is attacking her husband. How can I help?
88. Shelters - how do you find your funds to live on and where to go?
89. My friend appears to have no way out!
90. My husband is in prison and we're divorcing. Visitation rights?
91. If you are in immediate danger

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