How can you help a loved one?
You may have a friend, relative, or neighbor who is being abused. You may have witnessed the violence, heard it, seen physical signs of it, or merely suspected it for various reasons. What should you do?
- Ask direct questions, gently. Give her ample opportunity to talk. Don’t run into providing solutions.
- Listen without judging. Abused women often believe their abusers’ negative messages. They feel responsible, ashamed, inadequate, and are afraid they will be judged.
- Let her know that you support and care about her, that she’s not responsible for the violence, that only the abuser can stop the violence.
- Explain that physical violence in a relationship is never acceptable, at any time. There is no excuse for it: not alcohol or drugs, not financial pressures, not depression, not jealousy.
- Make sure she knows that she’s not alone: that millions of American women from every ethnic, racial, and economic group suffer from abuse, and that many women find it difficult to leave.
- Also explain that domestic violence is a crime: as much of a crime as robbery or rape and that she can seek protection through the justice system.
- If she has children, reinforce her concern for them, letting her know that this is damaging to children. In fact, you may want to reach out to support her children, and let them know you’re there for them too.
- Let her know that it is likely that, in spite of his promises, the violence will continue, and probably, escalate.
- Emphasize that when she is ready, she can make a choice to leave the relationship and that there is help available.
- Provide her with information about local resources: the phone number of the local domestic violence hotline, support groups, counseling, shelter programs, and legal advocacy services.
- She may need financial assistance, or help finding a place to live or a place to store her belongings. She may need assistance to escape. Decide if you feel comfortable helping out in these ways.
- If she is planning to leave, remind her to take important papers with her, such as birth certificates, passports, health insurance documents, etc.
- If she remains in the relationship, continue to be her friend while at the same time firmly communicating to her that she and her children do not deserve to be in this violent situation.
- If you see or hear an assault in progress, call the police. Because these assaults are often dangerous, do not physically intervene.