How can I help a friend or family member who is being abused?
Don’t be afraid to let the person know that you are concerned for their safety. Ask about the abuse privately and when you have plenty of time to listen. Most abuse victims will welcome the opportunity to talk about what is happening. The most important thing you can do is let them talk when, and if, they are ready. Don’t start the conversation when you won’t have ample time to listen.
Believe them. Many times victims hesitate to tell anyone what is happening because they are afraid no one will believe them. Tell her or him you see what is going on and that you want to help. Talk about what a healthy relationship looks like and help them recognize they are not responsible for the abuse in their relationship. Remind them that deserve to be in a relationship were both partners treat each other with respect.
Acknowledge that the person is in a very difficult and frightening situation. Let your friend or family member know they can count on you for help and remind them they are not alone. Offer to help them find resources to assist them.
Be supportive and non-judgmental. What a victim of abuse needs most is someone who will listen. Talking about the abuse may be very difficult and you may not agree with the choices a person makes. Respect their decisions and avoid criticism; remind them of their strengths. Be honest – let your friend or family member know that while you may not always agree with their choices, you will continue to offer help and support. Tell them you’ll do what you can to help keep them safe.
Encourage your friend or family member to stay in regular contact with friend and family and to keep involved in activities outside the relationship. It is important that a victim of abuse does not become isolated from those who can help and support them.
When your friend or family member finally leaves the relationship, stay supportive. Even though the person was abused in the relationship, there was an emotional connection which has now been severed. Like any relationship, the person will need time to mourn its end. They will need your support even more during this time.
If they plan to stay, help them create a safety plan. Some victims of abuse cannot leave the relationship for a variety of reasons. You can help them stay as safe as possible by downloading the safety plan from this site and revising it to fit the person’s situation.
Provide resources for counseling, legal assistance and support. Encourage your friend or family member to get help from a domestic violence agency and accompany them to the appointment or group. If they have to attend court or go to the police, ask if you can go with them for moral support. Help them gather the phone numbers and agencies that help them with whatever choice they make.
Remember you are there for support, you cannot “rescue” someone from an abusive relationship. The most you can do is be there to support your friend or family member while they make the choices they believe best for them. It is difficult to watch a person be abused in a relationship, but ultimately, the person has to make the decision that is best for them. Your support is the best help you can offer.
For support and more information please call the Domestic Intervention Violence Hotline locally at 717-273-7190 or toll free at 1-866-686-0451.