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.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.