Help for Friends and Family
It can be really difficult when someone you care about, such as a friend or family member, is being hurt or abused by their partner. Your help can make a big difference, but how you respond to their situation is very important. Providing support and encouragement to someone who is being abused is easier than you think and will empower that person to feel stronger and give them the confidence to make decisions that will result in their best interest. Never underestimate the value of your support.
Here are some things you can do to let your friend or family member know you care and want to be helpful:
1. Bring up the subject.
At a time when you and your friend or family member are alone, say that you can see what’s happening and that you want to help. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns. It’s natural to worry that you will be ‘interfering’ if you bring up the subject, but it’s equally worrisome if someone you care about is being abused and you say nothing. If you approach your friend or family member sensitively, without being critical, they will appreciate your expression of concern for their well-being, even if they are not ready to talk about it. Let them know that you’re there if and when they need to talk to someone. Be patient.
2. Be a good listener.
The most important thing you can do is to listen without being judgmental. You don’t have to fully understand to be of assistance. All you have to do is give your time and show your sincere concern. Believe what your friend or family member tells you. Refrain from saying what you would do if you were in the same situation. Just listen and give helpful information, not advice.
3. Acknowledge that your friend or family member is in a very difficult, scary situation.
Help your friend or family member to understand that the abuse is not their fault. Remind your friend or family member that the abuser, not the victim, is responsible for the abuse. Encourage them to express any feelings of hurt or anger or humiliation. Remind your friend or family member that it takes courage to talk about the abuse and to keep going from one day to the next despite being abused.
4. Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse, if they are in denial.
Help your friend or family member identify the abusive behavior. If your friend or family member refuses to acknowledge that they are in a dangerous situation, explain that you, in good conscience, cannot underestimate the danger she/he might be in. Express your concerns about their safety and provide them with information about domestic violence and where they can get help. Talk about the availability of domestic violence programs and the services they offer. Give your friend or family member information about the local domestic violence program Get Help Now.
5. Respect your friend or family member’s right to make their own decisions.
Refrain from making decisions on your friend or family member’s behalf. Focus on listening and supporting them, even if you don’t agree with them. Respect their cultural or religious values and beliefs. Help your friend or family member think about what options are available to help them feel stronger and safer. Never apply pressure.
6. Help your friend or family member build self-confidence.
Offer practical assistance such as accompanying your friend or family member to medical care. If they are going to the police, to court, or to see a lawyer, offer to go along with them. Allow your friend or family member to do the talking.
7. Help your friend or family member increase their safety.
Help your friend or family member learn about all the legal options that are available to them. Put safety strategies in place with your friend or family member. If they are contemplating leaving an abusive relationship, help them develop a Personal Safety Plan (Keep Yourself Safe). Make sure your friend or family member is comfortable with the plan. Never encourage them to follow a plan that doesn’t put safety first.
8. Maintain some level of regular contact with your friend or family member.
Having an opportunity to talk regularly to a supportive friend or relative can be very important to someone who is being abused or leaving an abusive relationship. But remember, supporting a friend or relative who is being or has been abused can be frustrating, frightening and stressful. Be honest about the amount and type of support you can offer. Don’t push yourself beyond your own limits – you can only fully support your friend or family member if you look after yourself, too.