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How Can I Help? A Guide for Families, Friends and Others

Abusive relationships have devastating effects on everyone. Anyone in an intimate relationship can be abused. It can be difficult to discuss the abuse and to seek help. You can help if you think someone you care about is being abused.

Remember two important things when helping someone who is being abused:

  1. Change takes time.
  2. There is no single “right way” to help. The important thing is that you be there to support them in their decisions.

For people who have not been in an abusive relationship, it may be difficult to understand why a victim remains in a relationship and even “ covers up” for his/her partner. Both of these behaviors can be a direct result of living with a controlling partner. That person’s apparent indecisiveness and loyalty are essential tactics that she/he uses to survive. This does not mean that your loved one does not need and value your help. In fact, just the opposite is most likely true.

The hardest part of talking to a person who you believe is being abused is getting started. Be sure you have enough time and privacy for the discussion. The first conversation may not be easy but, to be of help, you must begin. Here are some suggestions to get started:

  • You seem unhappy.  Do you want to talk about it?
  • What is it like at home for you?
  • What happens when you and your partner disagree or argue?
  • Are you scared of him/her? Does she/he threaten you?
  • How does your partner handle things when she/he doesn’t get her/his way? What does he/ she do?

Support her/him for talking to you; she/he has taken a risk. Let him/her know that you appreciate what they have done and consider their feelings reasonable and normal. Let the other person lead the conversation. She/he needs you to be a good listener. Many people who are abused feel as though they don’t have options and are not able to get out of the abusive relationship. Talking with a loved one or a domestic violence advocate will help them to believe that options may exist. You can learn about domestic violence so you understand as much as possible about what they are experiencing.

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