Helping a victim of domestic violence
What can I say to a victim of domestic violence?
i believe you.
I am afraid for you.
It is not your fault.
You DO NOT deserve to be abused.
Help is available.
Helping someone who is experiencing domestic violence
Learn all you can about domestic violence. Gather facts about domestic violence. You will be more equipped to help a person experiencing domestic violence if you are informed. Speak to local domestic violence agencies.
Lend a sympathetic ear. Let the person know that you care and are willing to listen. DON”T force the issue, but allow the victim to talk to you at their own pace. NEVER blame the victim for the abuse (that is what the abuser does) and don’t underestimate the potential danger.
Give the victim the emotional support they need. The victim has probably been emotionally abused and constantly told by their batterer several degrading personal comments. Focus on their strengths and abilities. Look at what the person has done to survive emotionally and physically. Without positive reinforcement from outside of their situation, the victim may begin to believe the put downs of the abuser.
Encourage the victim to see the danger and tell them that they do not have to live that way. The abuser is responsible for the abuse. Let the person know that no everybody lives with abuse and that they are suffering physical and emotional harm. Express concern for the victim but do not try to rescue them. The victim needs to learn to believe in their own abilities to find solutions.
How can I help a friend of family member that is being abused?
Don’t be afraid to let him or her know that you are concerned for their safety.
Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse. Tell him or her you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help them recognize that what is happening os not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.
Acknowledge that he or she is in a very difficult and scary situation.
Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure him or her that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there.
Listen to your friend or family member. Remember that it may be difficult for him or her to talk about the abuse. Let him or her 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.
Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. He or she may leave and return to the relationship several times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.
Encourage him or her to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.
If he or she ends the relationship, continue to be supportive of them.
Even though the relationship was abusive, your friends or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. He or she will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Help him or her to develop a safety plan.
Encourage him or her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.
Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling and support groups. Offer to go with them to talk to family and friends, to police or attorneys as moral support.
Remember that you cannot” rescue” him or her.
Although it is difficult to see someone you car about get hurt, ultimately the perspn getting hurt has to be the one to decide that they want to make a change. It is important for you to support them and help them to find a way to safety.
HOW TO HELP A SURVIVOR OF SEXUAL ABUSE
When a survivor of sexual abuse shares their experiences, they are entrusting you with a part of their life that is painful, frightening, and vulnerable. These guidelines can help you honor that trust and assist in their healing:
Myths about Domestic Violence
“He’s been under a lot of stress.”
Abuse is not caused by the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or any other stressful situation. Abusers typically make excuses for their violence, claiming a loss of control due to extreme stress. Abuse is actually a means of an attempt at control. An abuser is selective of whom they abuse; they are not usually choosing to assault a boss, neighbor or mail carrier, but instead attack their intimate partners and children.
“He must be sick.”
Abuse is a learned behavior, not a mental illness. An abuser’s personal experience as a child, or the messages they get from society in general, may tell them that violence is an effective way to achieve power and control over an intimate partner’s behavior. An abuser must be held accountable for their own actions. Viewing them as simply “sick” wrongly excuses them from taking responsibility for their own behavior.
“If she wanted my help, she’d ask for it.”
A victim may not yet feel comfortable confiding in others, fearing that they may not understand their situation. If you suspect your friend is a victim, try approaching the subject in a general way. For example, you could say something about a television documentary you’ve seen or a magazine article you’ve read. Tell her you are concerned about women who are in situations of domestic abuse.
“It’s not safe for me to direct her to help.”
Sometimes abusers will act violently with anyone who is helping the victim. Be aware that there are no guarantees to your safety. Encourage them to seek professional assistance from a domestic violence program.
“It is too hard on me to get involved.”
If you have offered assistance and are feeling emotionally drained, suggest that your friend speak to a professional counselor to better assist them through this traumatic time in their lives. Maybe the best offer of support you can provide at this time is to offer them a safe location to phone from for professional assistance.
“Abuse doesn’t occur when people are dating.”