How to help a friend in an abusive relationship

Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

helping handEach year countless women and men are physically and emotionally abused by their partners. Chances are you know someone – sister, friend, neighbor, co-worker, etc. – who is a victim of domestic violence. And it can be hard to know what to do. Here are a few things you can do to help someone who is being abused:

Be willing to listen, without judgment.  If someone tells you they are being abused the most important things are to believe them and to be non-judgmental.  A few other tips for how to respond to someone who tells you they are being abused are

  • Stay focused on the abusive behavior, not the abusive person
    • “It is never ok to slap someone.”
  • Empathize and tell them it is not their fault
    • “I’m sorry that happened to you.  It’s not your fault.  You don’t deserve it.”
    • “This seems hard for you.  It takes a lot of courage to admit that someone you love is hurting you
  • Express concern
    • “I’m concerned about you and your safety.”
    • “You sound scared.  You can always call back here if you need to talk.”
  • Let them know they aren’t alone
    • “If you ever need someone to talk to, you can come here.”
    • “There are a lot of people who experience the same thing, you are not alone and this is not your fault.”
  • Provide information and options
    • “Would you like the number of a domestic violence advocate that has helped others in similar situations?’

Respect their choices. Victim/survivors have been stripped of power in their relationships, so it is important to validate your friend’s feelings and let her or him make his or her own choices. Furthermore, victim/survivors know how their partner will react more than anyone else. Do not intervene with the partner until you find out if it is safe for your friend to do so. Let your friend know in advance about people you need to tell so that she or he can take precautions if necessary. Tell only those you need to tell to increase the victim’s safety and as required.

Focus on their strengths.  Victims of domestic abuse are constantly put down by their partners and told they can’t do anything right.  Give them the emotional support they need to know that they are a good person.  Help them find their strengths and skills.  Most importantly, make sure he or she knows that they deserve to live a life free of violence.

Suggest creating a safety plan.  Your friend or loved one may decide to remain in the abusive relationship.  Let them know that you are concerned for their safety and help them see how dangerous the violence could become.  Suggest they create a plan for themselves, and possibly their children, should their partner become violent again.  This plan should include a list of people to call and possibly a pre-packed suitcase filled with essentials: clothes, money, etc.

Help them find a safe place and resources for support.  Help your friend find a safe place to go in the event of an emergency.  This may be a battered women’s shelter or the home of a friend or family member. Gather information on domestic violence programs in your area.  Make sure he or she knows that relationship abuse is a crime and that there are options and services available to them.  If they are not happy with the first person or organization they contact, encourage them to reach out to another organization.

You might think that something as simple as talking 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.

To learn more about what you can do or to find resources for your friends or family members call:

Minnesota Statewide Toll Free Crisis Line: (866) 223-1111

DAP Advocates: (612) 673-3526

DAP Therapy: (612) 874-7063

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