How to help a friend or loved one
You might think that something as simple as talking and listening to a friend about abuse couldn’t possibly make a difference. But it really does. Just knowing that someone cares enough to ask about the abuse can break through the wall of isolation that can exist around victims of relationship abuse. If you think a student, loved one or friend is being abused, talk to them about it. Listen to them. Let them know you care. You don’t have to be an expert. You just need to be there.
Listen, without judging.
Often an abused person believes their abuser’s negative messages about them. They may feel responsible, ashamed, inadequate and afraid they will be judged by you.
Let them know you care and want to help.
Give clear messages, including:
- She/he does not cause the abuse.
- She/he is not to blame for his/her partner’s behavior.
- She/he cannot change their partner’s behavior – their partner must choose to change.
- - Apologies and promises are a form of manipulation.
- - She/he is not alone.
- - Abuse is not loss of control; it is a means of control.
Tell them the abuse is not their fault.
Explain that physical violence in a relationship is never acceptable. There’s no excuse for it – not alcohol or drugs, financial pressure, depression, jealousy or any behavior on the part of the person being abused.
Make sure they know they are not alone.
Millions of people of every age, race and religion face abuse, and many people find it extremely difficult to deal with the abuse.
Emphasize that when they want help, it is available.
Let them know that domestic violence tends to get worse and become more frequent with time and that it rarely goes away on its own. Let them know that there are many resources available to help them, including you. Offer to assist with finding resources for them.
Explain that relationship abuse is a crime and that there are resources.
They can seek protection from the police or courts, and help from a local domestic violence program.
Suggest that she/he develop a safety plan in case of emergency.
It is important for someone in an abusive relationship to have a safety plan to ensure the safety of themselves and their children, regardless of whether they choose to stay in or leave the relationship.
Respect their right to confidentiality.
Empower them to make their own decisions. They have been stripped of power in their relationship, so it is important to validate their feelings and let them make their own choices.
Get advice. Don’t be afraid to call a help line or contact a domestic violence organization yourself and ask for advice on helping a friend.
Adapted from the Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness