- Listen without judgment. Ask about the situation and let them know that you really want to listen, then give them plenty of time to talk. Let them know that you are concerned about their safety, that they don't deserve to be treated this way, and that abuse is never acceptable. Try to see that your friend is confused because they are frightened by the violence, but wants the love or security from being with their partner. If your friend wants to stay in the relationship, or goes back and forth about it, try not to tell her that they are wrong. Help your friend to see that what is happening is not okay and to see the signs of abuse. Support them in making choices for themselves even if their choice is to stay in the relationship. Even if your friend breaks up with their partner and goes back, listen. . Eventually your friend will leave, especially with the support of friends.
- Remind them of their strengths. By helping your friend recognize their skills, abilities, and strengths you will help them see their other options. Point out the strength they have shown by surviving this current situation. Recognize the things your friend does to take care of themself. Encourage your friend’s strength and courage. Encourage your friend to do things with you, and with other friends, to have some enjoyment apart from the relationship.
- Help them learn more about domestic violence. You can best help by knowing the facts about abuse. Let them know that the violence is likely to get worse, not better, over time. Abuse results in more injuries than rapes, auto accidents, and muggings combined. Help your friend recognize the abusers excuses for being violent. These excuses usually blame the victim, and not the abuser, for the violence that is not the victim’s fault. You can also help brainstorm about other sources of help.
- Make your friend/loved one aware that domestic violence can have serious consequences for children, if there are children involved. Let them know you are worried about their safety and the safety of the children.
- Show concern. Say "I'm worried about you" rather than "Why don't you leave" or "I wouldn't put up with that."
- Provide them with information about local resources. Share all the community resources you know about. Let your friend know they can call if they decide they want help.
- Take it seriously. Domestic violence can involve threats, pushing, punching, slapping, choking, sexual assault, assault with weapons or verbal abuse.
- Keep in touch. The abuser may isolate your friend. By letting your friend know you care and are available to them, you provide them with a connection to the world and options for safety.
- Help your friend develop a safety plan. Safety planning helps develop tools in advance of potentially dangerous situations. It is a protocol developed when in a calm state of mind for how to handle potentially explosive. Help them use what they know about particular resources and about the abuser’s patterns to figure out ways to be safe when the abuser is explosive or violent. Let your friend know if they can stay with you if and when they are ready to leave. Remember that when a victim of domestic violence leaves the violent partner, the partner’s violence usually escalates as they feel their control slipping. Your friend knows their situation best and is making decisions to best keep themselves and their children, if they have them, safe.
- If your friend breaks up with the abuser, keep up the support. It takes awhile to get over any relationship, including ones that are violent. Keep in close contact through the time when your friend feels lonely, scared, or bad about themselves. Your friend may feel like getting back together with their former partner. They may miss that person, or may not feel strong enough to resist the pressure to get back together. Let your loved one know you are scared for you’re their safety, but you respect their choices.
If you become frightened or frustrated, get support from people you trust. Educate yourself about domestic violence. You can’t rescue your friend. You can’t neglect your own life to take care of them. But with support for yourself, you can calmly hang in there and support your friend as they go though the ups and downs of dealing with violence in their life.
If They Say They Can't Leave
Leaving an abusive situation is difficult for many reasons. Don't expect your loved one to leave immediately. Your loved one may even return to the abuser. Survivors leave their abusers an average of 7-11 times before ending the relationship permanently. It is important for you to support them through the entire process, though you may be frustrated, worried, and want your friend to get out of the situation right now.
Five things to say to a survivor when they say they can't leave:
- I am here for you and will support you, no matter what
- I am afraid for your safety
- I am afraid for the safety of your children
- It will only get worse
- You don't deserve to be abused
Remember that your loved one must live with the decisions that they make. They have been living in this situation and must determine the risk. It is often most dangerous for an individual when attempting to leave or after they have left the abuser. A survivor must plan for their safety carefully, and it may take a great deal of time and several attempts for them to actually leave. Support your loved one in making their own decisions.
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