We’re often asked how you can help a friend or family member you suspect is being abused.
Friends and Family: What You Can Do
Your support and encouragement can be of tremendous value to a friend involved in an abusive relationship. You can ease the isolation and loss of control by listening, providing information and helping your friend to explore options.
Gather all the information you can about domestic violence. Contact programs and services in your area that assist victims of intimate partner violence and their children. These programs provide options for safety, advocacy, support and other needed information and services.
Sometimes your own feelings about the abuse may make it difficult for you to confront the situation. Contact your local domestic violence hotline or program and speak with an advocate about your concerns. These programs can be an excellent source of support both for you and your friend.
Lend a Sympathetic Ear
Letting your friend know you care and are willing to listen may be the best help you can offer. Don’t force this issue. Keep your mind open and really listen to what is being said. Never blame the victim for what is happening or underestimate the victims’ fear of potential danger. Never repeat what has been told to you to the abuser, unless given permission.
Remember that your friend or family member must make his or her own decisions.
Focus on supporting your friend or family member’s right to make his or her own choices.
Give Information on Community Services
When asked for advice on what to do, share the information you have gathered. Let your friend or family member know they are not alone and there are caring people available. Be aware that not all helping professionals are fully aware of the complex dynamics of intimate partner abuse. If the person is not helpful, the victim should be encouraged to find assistance elsewhere.
Focus on Strengths
People living in abusive relationships can suffer from both emotional and physical abuse. Give your friend the emotional support needed to know they are a good person. Emphasize their strengths and skills and that everyone deserves to live a life that is free from violence.
Be a Friend
Provide whatever you can to help: transportation, childcare, financial assistance, etc.
Help Develop a Safety Plan
Encourage your friend or family member to develop a plan to protect themselves and their children. Help them think through the steps they should take if their partner becomes abusive again. Make a list of people they can call in an emergency and places they can go.
Suggest that your friend or family member put together and hide a suitcase of clothing, personal items, money, identification cards, social security cards, birth certificates, bank records and other important documents.
If Your Friend or Family Member Decides to Leave
If they decide to leave, a domestic violence shelter may be an option and a safe place to go. However, not all communities have shelters. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline to find out where the nearest shelter is located.
Be very careful when offering and providing safety in your home. The most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is when a person is leaving an abusive relationship.
When to Intervene
It cannot be overemphasized that domestic violence can result in serious physical injury or even death. If you know that a domestic violence incident is occurring, contact the police immediately.