Ask Amy: Friend Wants to "Out" Abuser to Others

By Amy Dickinson | January 8th, 2021

Do the neighbors deserve to know what he's done to his wife? Or is it none of their business?


Woman tries to stay away from her abuser Image

Dear Amy: I recently helped one of my neighbors to leave her emotionally abusive/narcissist husband.

He still lives nearby and sometimes joins a “social-distancing happy hour” on the block.

The others don’t know about his horrible mistreatment of his wife.

My secret desire is to “out” him as an abuser.

I want to enjoy the social hour, but hate being around this abuser, so what’s the best way to handle this?

— Hate Keeping This Secret

Dear Hate: I believe that the best way to react to this person is to show up and claim your own space in the social sphere – and completely ignore him.

Actual diagnosed narcissism seems to be quite rare, but narcissistic traits are more common and recognizable.

A true narcissist will want to provoke a response from you, and then will blame and bully you into being on the defensive – and you won’t even realize it while it’s happening. The encounter will only start to make sense to you later, when you deconstruct the dynamic.

By confronting him or reacting emotionally if he confronts you, you will have made his day. He might walk back to his house after a confrontation, believing he’d just had a triumphant experience.

You’ve already done your job, which was to help a friend. Your privilege now is to continue to behave with integrity, and simply not play this game by the rules he knows, but by the rules you set. You may think to yourself: “I despise you. I’m onto you. But you don’t ‘run’ me. Therefore, I have decided that you are of absolutely no consequence.”

The decision to “out” this person to others who know him should be made by his former wife. If you did this too soon in her process, you might unwittingly invite him back into her circle, giving him an excuse or a rationale for contacting and trying to manipulate her, because you — her friend — had been “mean,” “unfair,” or had “embarrassed” him in front of others.


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In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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