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How to Tell if Someone You Love is in an Abusive Relationship – and What to Do About It

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How You can Help Domestic Violence Victims

So once you know the signs…now what? This is the part that can be the hardest for friends and family — because the truth is, no matter how much you want to help your loved one, you can’t force him or her to leave an abusive relationship. The truth is, often people have very good reasons for not leaving. They may be afraid of further violence, or they may be financially or emotionally dependent on the abusive partner. Maybe they’ve even had children and started to raise a family together, and are afraid of losing a custody battle.

It may be difficult, especially if your loved one has a very possessive partner, but the first thing you need to do is talk to them alone. Approach them in a way that makes it clear you’re not blaming them for the situation, that you aren’t judging them for it, and that you love them no matter what. Let them know that you’re concerned about their safety — but recognize that they may very well brush off your concerns or try to minimize them. Respect their answer in the moment, but don’t be afraid to try again a few days or weeks later when they might be more receptive to the conversation.

Since you may not completely understand why your loved one is staying in the relationship, the most important thing you can do is be a good listener. Try to find out what kind of help and support they actually need right now — it may not be what you think. At least at first, just giving them a supportive friend to talk to may be the most important first step you can take.

Don’t say bad things about the victim’s partner or say you wish they’d never gotten involved emotionally. This can push the victim away by making them feel like it’s their fault and they “deserve” the abuse.  Don’t tell them how you would leave in their shoes or how you think they should act. You may mean well, but this is likely to shut down the conversation completely.

Look up and share local resources with your friend. Find out if there are any local domestic violence hotlines, women’s shelters, or support groups that might be able to help. Then, let your loved one know these resources are available. If you know they aren’t going to be proactive, call yourself and see if you can get advice on how to best handle the situation.

Finally, be patient. The sad fact is, most domestic violence victims make several attempts to leave before they actually succeed. Let your loved one move at his or her own pace. Leaving is a difficult decision and it make take some time for them to plan and work up the nerve to follow through. Even if they want to leave right away, there are likely to be barriers preventing them from immediately making the change.

 

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117 comments

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8:18PM PST on Nov 8, 2013

The majority of domestic violence cases against children are perpetrated by women.

9:07PM PST on Nov 7, 2013

TYVM

12:29AM PST on Nov 4, 2013

Shared, thanks.

6:32PM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

"October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so today we wanted to do our part to spread a little information about a topic that, despite being incredibly common, too often ends up getting swept under the rug."

As I've stated, the inclusion of maternal child abuse as a domestic violence issue, "despite being incredibly common, too often ends up getting swept under the rug."

Now's when I expect women to "man-up" and do something about it.

6:16PM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

James W..... you bring forward your experiences in every article about abuse .....We know your story but you get sarcastic with those who may not.... THIS article IS about abusive relationships and unfortunately most equate it to women.....Why don't you post your own article and see what happens.....you may be surprised at the responses and find some with your story too

5:55PM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

@ Karen H: "James W, the article isn’t about child abuse."

No, I guess you are right. It's about "domestic violence" which as I mentioned, doesn't include children as victims and mothers as perpetrators.

And back to Lisa L. here's the gov. stats.

40.5% of all child abuse is committed solely by biological mothers
17.7% of all child abuse is committed solely by biological fathers
19.3% of child abuse is committed by both the mother and the father
6.4% of child abuse is committed by the mother and some other individual
1.0% of child abuse is committed by the father and some other individual
11.9% is committed by someone other than the parents
3.1% is committed by an unknown or missing perpetrator.
Source: US Department of Health and Human Services Child Maltreatment Report 2001

You didn't cite your sources. Perhaps they were from the same VAWA stats concluding 1 in 71 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime. The actual numbers are I in 6.

Like you care.

10:01PM PDT on Oct 9, 2013

Thanks!

8:46AM PDT on Oct 8, 2013

Thank you for sharing, no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship.

7:04PM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

thanks so much for this

12:04PM PDT on Oct 7, 2013

ty

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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