How To Help A Friend
When someone you care about is a victim of domestic violence, it can be devastating. You may feel helpless, especially if your loved one refuses to admit that they are in an unhealthy relationship and/or danger.
It is important to remember that it is the victim's choice to stay with or leave their abuser and the victim knows the abuser and what they are capable of better than you.
Do you have a loved one who...
- Is continuously put down by their partner in front of others?
- Is constantly worried about making their partner angry?
- Makes excuses for their partner's behavior?
- Has a partner who is extremely jealous and possessive?
- Has only a few close friends and/or has withdrawn from existing friends and family?
- Has symptoms of depression that coincides with the relationship?
- Attempts to hide bruises with makeup or clothing?
Common Misconceptions That Keep People from Intervening
It can be difficult to know how to help a loved one who has been victimized by domestic violence. Common beliefs and misconceptions such as those listed below often keep well-meaning loved ones from intervening.
"The issue is between the couple. It is not my business."
"She must be provoking him; I know him and he is a great guy!"
"If the victim really wanted to leave, he/she would leave."
"I would never let someone treat me that way!"
Understanding the Barriers to Escape
Understanding the common barriers to escape that keep victims from leaving their abusive partner is an important component when trying to help your loved one. While every situation is unique, below are some common barriers:
- Love. The victim loves their partner, and may be holding onto the happy memories, or have hope that the abuser will eventually change.
- Fear. The victim knows their abuser and what they may be capable of better than you.
- Family Unit. The victim wants to keep the family together, especially if children are involved.
- Pets. The abuser threatens to harm the pet, or the victim is afraid that if they leave, they will not be able to take the pet.
- Personal Beliefs. Often, religious or cultural beliefs cause the victim to feel as though leaving is not an option or divorce is wrong.
- Isolation. The victim may fear that they have lost their support system due to the extreme isolation and control.
- Lack of Resources. Sometimes financial resources, transportation or even lack of childcare may keep a victim from leaving.
You Can Help!
Your loved one needs you now more than ever, even though they may deny that fact. They may feel they have no where to turn because of the isolation, or the negative remarks that the abuser has made about their support system. Regardless of the circumstances, there are several things you can do to help.
- Do not shame or blame the victim, instead, empower them to make their own decisions. There are many reasons why the victim stays and it is your job to be a support system, rather than create more anxiety for the victim.
- Explain your concern to the victim and if necessary, teach children to dial 911.
- Offer support in their decisions, especially if they decide to end the relationship.
- Encourage them to get more involved with friends and family, or anything positive that is outside of the relationship.
- Help them develop a safety plan to be implemented when ready.
- Do not let the abuser know that you are aware of the abuse.
- Assist with childcare, transportation, finances or even a place to stay – but do not risk your own safety.
- Encourage your friend to call SafeHomes. We have both residential and outreach services and all services are completely confidential and completely free of charge.
Refer your friend to our 24 Hour Crisis Hotline: 706.736.2499
Domestic violence victims commonly leave 7 times before leaving their abuser permanently.