Navigating through the holidays with an abusive relationship lingering in the background can be extremely difficult, but a loved one helping you through can make all the difference. That is why we compiled this list of tips for those who are trying to help someone this holiday season. With caution, sensitivity, and care - your attentiveness can help improve someone you love’s holiday this year.
Tips for helping someone through an abusive relationship during the holidays:
If you suspect that your loved one is a victim of domestic violence this holiday season, ask direct questions, gently. Give her ample opportunity to talk. Don’t run into providing solutions.
Listen without judging. Victims of domestic violence often believe their abusers’ negative messages. They feel responsible, ashamed, inadequate, and are afraid they will be judged.
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. When she is ready, if she needs assistance leaving the relationship, WomenRising is available 24/7, even on holidays: call (201) 333-5700.
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.
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.
The holidays are usually a joyful time for children, if your loved one and her abuser are separated this holiday season this may be unusual for their kids and their mother may feel sad and guilty about that. Do your best to try to brighten up a dark time and help bring joy to their household this holiday season.
Let her know that it is likely that, in spite of his promises, the violence will continue, and probably, escalate. If the violence escalates in your presence, call 911 to protect your friend against imminent danger.
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.
Remember, the holidays are a time for joy and celebration. Despite your worries for your loved one, please try to find time to feel the joy and celebration.