– Don’t be afraid to let this person know that you are concerned for their safety. Tell them you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help your friend recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserves a healthy, non-violent relationship
-Acknowledge that she is in a very difficult and scary situation. Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there.
-Remember that you cannot “rescue” them. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person getting hurt has to be the one to decide that they want to do something about it. It’s important for you to support them and help them find a way to safety and peace in their own time.
-Be supportive. Listen to your friend or family member. Remember that it may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.
-Be non-judgmental. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.
-Help them to develop a safety plan. Contact a local domestic violence program for more information on how to safety plan with your friend.
-Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.
If they end the relationship, continue to be supportive of them. Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
-Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Offer to go with them to talk to family and friends. If they have to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.
-Take care of yourself. Witnessing the pain of someone you care about can take its toll, and you may even experience vicarious trauma. Seek the help and support that you need, while still respecting your friend’s privacy and confidentiality.
The first step to helping someone who is abusive is to hold them accountable for their decision to abuse. It is a choice to be abusive towards your partner. It is also a choice not to: it is not easy for an abuser to stop abusive behavior, and it requires a serious decision to change.
Nobody wants to think they know an abuser. But whether it’s a friend, a family member, a neighbor or a co-worker, the chances are good that sometime you will notice someone treating a spouse or partner in a way that makes you uncomfortable. And you worry that when they’re alone, it may be worse.
What can you do?
Draw attention to it: “When you do that, it’s really disrespectful.” “Did you mean to be so rough? That’s not cool.”
Tell your friend what you think: “This makes me really uncomfortable. It’s not right.” “I’m surprised to see you act that way. You’re better than that.” “I care about you, but I won’t tolerate it if you’re abusive.”
Offer suggestions or solutions: “Kids learn from their parents. Is this how you want your kid to behave?” “How would you feel if your daughter chose someone who acted like this?”
If your friend demonstrates behavior that is criminal, tell him so: “Domestic violence is a crime. You could be arrested for this.” “You could end up in jail if you don’t find a way to deal with your problems. Then what would happen to you and your family?”
Will it make a difference?
Maybe not. But you know that you need to say something. Your silence is the same as saying you condone the behavior.
Or maybe it will make a difference. Maybe your friend will take you seriously and decide to change. The sooner you reach out to someone who is living with violence, whether they are the victim or abuser, the sooner they can get help.
Contact your local domestic violence shelter for additional resources or information to help someone who is being abusive.