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‘He controls what she does and who she visits’: My friend’s husband pushed her to give up her job — and ‘lost’ her passport. How can we help?

‘She has complained that her husband has forced her out of the house on several occasions’ Dear Quentin,

I want to help a friend who is going through some challenges with her husband. My friend and her husband are both from India and work in the Pacific Northwest. They have twin daughters who are 2 years old. My friend’s husband appears to be a friendly and agreeable person, and has an exceedingly large circle of friends. 

My friend, however, complains that he has a temper and is extremely controlling. My friends and I have witnessed the controlling behavior, where she has to manage the kids completely on her own and her husband doesn’t seem to bother at all about helping. Also, he controls what she does and who she visits. 

She has complained that her husband has forced her out of the house on several occasions. Several friends and I visit the couple on social occasions, and we veer between ignoring him completely and imploring him to be more helpful around the house. He simply ignores our advice. We have not witnessed our friend being thrown out of the house, but I trust her word. 

A ‘lost’ passport

My friend’s husband stopped her from continuing her job, and now she is now forced to be a homemaker, something she doesn’t like. It may sound unbelievable and is obviously unjust, but it’s fairly common in some cultures for women to be treated like this. We friends have often discussed the issue and debated how we can help her. 

These discussions often end with “We should not interfere in their life” or “It’s her fight and she should push back and know what to do.” Though at some level, we may be unsure or unwilling to ruin our friendship with her husband. My friend recently told friends that her husband “lost” her passport and is not lodging a police complaint or getting a new one. 

She told me today that she is so fed up that she just wants to go to her parents in India, but she doesn’t have her passport. I sometimes suspect that her husband is just hiding her passport. I have often thought that maybe I should just call the authorities and tell them the issue and let them help her. 

However, I am also not sure if this is the right step. What should we do?

Confused Friend