How can I help an abused family member or friend?
Break the Silence - Talk About It
You might think that something as simple as talking to a friend about abuse couldn’t possibly make a difference. But it really can. 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 friend or loved one is being abused, talk to her about it. Listen to your friend. Let your friend know you care. You don’t have to be an expert. You just need to be a friend.
- Gently ask direct questions about the situation.
- Listen without judging.
- Tell your friend the abuse in not her/his fault.
- Work with your friend to seek safety for herself and her children.
- Emphasize that when your friend wants help, it is available.
- Explain that domestic violence tends to get worse and become more frequent with time and that it rarely goes away on its own.
- Explain that relationship abuse is a crime and that protection from the police or courts as well as from local domestic violence programs is available.
- Work with your friend to identify resources that can provide assistance, emotional support and build self-esteem.
- Go with someone who has been abused to talk with police, medical help, and to seek safety.
Once you have brought the subject up, bring it up again. Try not to get frustrated if you reach out to a friend and she/he stays with the batterer or goes back to the partner. Encourage your friend to think about her safety as a beginning to ending the abuse. Your friend may just want the violence to end, not the relationship. Let your friend make her own decisions.
We Need to Support Each Other
If you have firsthand experience with relationship abuse, the best thing you can do is to tell your story to others. Let other women see you and the life you have built as a survivor, so others can realize that they too can escape and that there is a better life to look forward to. Being open about what you went through or witnessed also helps remove the stigma of being abused.