How to Help a Victim in Need
A Guide for Family and Friends
Signs can be easy to miss, especially if the abuser is charismatic and charming in social settings. Abusers oftentimes are not violent outside of their intimate relationships.
If you suspect abuse, ask yourself:
- Does she try to explain away visible injuries, such as black eyes, bruises, or broken bones?
- Are you reluctant to discuss his control over family finances, her dress, or her contact with friends and family?
- Do you laugh or ignore when he publicly ridicules her? Think about why you are not standing up for her. Do you sense he is dangerous?
Educate yourself about domestic violence. Here are some resources:
You still may be hesitant to approach her about the issues for a variety of reasons, such as:
- You don’t want to get involved in a private, family matter.
Domestic violence is a crime that affects everyone. Serious repercussions include: mental health issues, the continuation of violence into next generations, and high monetary costs to employers and taxpayers.
- She must be doing something to provoke the violence.
She is a victim, and is not the cause of the abuse. The use of violence is never justified or acceptable.
- She must not care about her children.
She may not realize the effect abuse has on her children, and does not want to separate them from their father. She may fear putting them in increased danger if she leaves. She may be worried she will become homeless and that her children will be taken away.
- Lately, she’s been distant. I don’t know if we’re still friends
Abusers often limit their partners’ social lives. Without a support system, her abuser knows she will be easier to control. She may also distance herself because she does not want you to know about the abuse, or fears you will blame her for it.
- He drinks a lot. Maybe that causes the violence.
Substance abuse may increase already existing abusive tendencies, but it does not cause abuse.
- How can she love someone who hurts her?
Throughout the cycle of violence in an abusive relationship, there are highs and lows. Most likely, he is not always abusive, expresses remorse for his actions, and asks for her forgiveness (this is called the “honeymoon phase”). He may be promising to change, and she wants to believe him.
What Can I Do?
- Become informed. You can contact Turning Point, or do some research on your own.
- Lend a sympathetic ear. Try to listen without judgment. Don’t blame her for what’s happening or dismiss her fears. Remember, she must make her own decisions.
- Guide her to community resources. Help her seek services at Turning Point or to call and speak with an advocate.
- Confront her with the danger. Help her develop a safety plan, make a list of people she can call in an emergency, and suggest she keep a suitcase of clothing, personal items, money, and important documents hidden in the house or at a friend’s. Help your friend face the reality of the danger she is in, and tell her you are worried for her safety. (Safety planning – link to Safety Planning page – resources are available.)
- Focus on her strengths. Abuse breaks down a person’s self-confidence; she may not think she is strong enough to leave. Emphasize that she deserves a life free from violence.
- Offer support if she chooses to leave, but be careful about providing safety in your home. Leaving is the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship, and you could put yourself at great risk if she stays with you. Continue to help her find resources and make safe decisions.
- If you know an abusive incident is happening, call the police. This does not guarantee the abuser will be arrested, but it is the most effective way to protect a mother and her children from immediate harm.
- Remember, you cannot rescue your friend. Do not neglect your own life to take care of her. With support for yourself, you can calmly stay committed and support your friend as she goes through the ups and downs of living with violence.