Helping a Friend or Family Member

DAP First Call

612.874.7063 | 8:00am-5:00pm Monday-Friday


Although it may be tempting to advise a victim to leave a relationship, that type of advice often backfires, and the victim may no longer seek help.  Instead, here are some more effective options.

Don’t be afraid to let them know you are concerned for their safety.  Help them to recognize the abuse.  Tell them that you see what is going on and that you want to help.  Help them to recognize that what is happening is not normal and that they deserves a healthy, nonviolent relationship.

Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation.  Encourage them.  Let them know that it is not their fault that they are being abused – the abuser, not the victim, is responsible for the abuse.  Let them know they are not alone.

Be supportive.  Listen to them.  Remember that it may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse.  Let them know you are available to help whenever they need it.  What they might need most is someone who will listen to and believe them and who can help them sort out their options.

Be non-judgmental.  Respect their decisions.  There are many complex reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships.  They may break up with and go back to the abuser many times.  Do not criticize them for doing that.  They will need your support even more during those times.  Do not make them feel bad for their choices, even if you think those choices are wrong.

Encourage them to do things with you and other friends and family and to take part in other activities outside their relationship.

If they break up with the abuser, continue to be supportive of them once they are alone.  Even though the relationship was abusive, they will probably feel sad and lonely when it is over.  They may be tempted to get back together with the abuser and will especially need your support at that time.

Help them develop a safety plan.  Help them think of what they will do when the violence occurs again – phone numbers for emergency shelter and advocacy, a list of items they need for themselves and children, a place they can go if they need to leave quickly.

Encourage them to talk to people who can give them help and guidance.  Offer to go with them to find a counselor or support group or to talk to their family, friends or teachers.  If they are going to the police, to court, or to see a lawyer, offer to go along, but make sure to let them do the talking.

Remember that you cannot rescue them.  You should be there to support them and to help them find their own way to escape the abuse and make themselves safe.