Being a Good Friend to Those in Need
- Be supportive. Remember that it may be difficult to talk about the abuse and what they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.
- Be non-judgmental. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships: fear for their safety, fear of homelessness, the difficulty of taking children away from a parent, strong emotional ties to the abuser, religious or cultural values that pressure the victim to keep the family together. Try not to criticize a victim’s decisions or guilt them into leaving. Instead, listen and let them know you are available to help whenever they may need it.
- Let them know you are concerned for their safety. Help them recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship. Tell them you see what is going on and that you want to help.
- If they end their abusive relationship, continue to be supportive of them. Even though the relationship was abusive, they may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support. Remember that you cannot “rescue” them. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person getting hurt has to be the one to decide that they want to do something about it.
Other Ways to Help
There are also many ways you can provide help in addition to being there for a friend or loved one. Connect them with services in the community or offer your time to assist with errands or other day-to-day items.
- Provide whatever you can: transportation, child care, financial assistance, moral support. If they have to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along or offer to take care of their children. Sometimes we forget the value of having a friend and ally by our side. Be very careful, however, when offering and providing safety in your home. A domestic violence victim frequently faces the most physical danger when attempting to flee. Be very discreet and talk to a domestic violence program about the best way to handle this. You can call our crisis line 24 hours a day (1-888-886-8793) or call the National Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
- Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the abusive relationship. Abuse often happens gradually over the course many years, so encouraging them to stay connected to friends and family outside their abusive relationship may help them recognize the abuse sooner.
- When they are ready to leave the abusive relationship, help them make a safe plan to get away. Most domestic violence homicides occur after a victim has left their abuser. Leaving doesn’t always mean safety, so help them make a smart and safe plan. Contact a domestic violence shelter about how to handle this. You can call our crisis line 24 hours a day (1-888-886-8793) or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE. You can also use this interactive safety planning guide to help them make a plan.
- If a shelter isn’t a good option, suggest a support group. Many domestic violence programs also have support groups that offer a safe place to talk about their feelings and experiences in an atmosphere free from judgment. It’s also an opportunity to meet and talk with other people who have had similar experiences.
When it Happens to Someone You Don’t Know
It may be that you meet strangers or acquaintances who are victims of domestic violence. Being sensitive and helpful in these situations may provide the victim with support, information or someone to talk to where they otherwise would have had no one else.
- Report any emergency. If you know that a battering incident is occurring, call the police immediately. Calling the police does not always mean the abuser will be put in jail, but it is the most effective way to protect the victim and children from immediate harm.
- Ask if they’re safe or need someone to talk to. Domestic violence isn’t just a private family matter so speak up and reach out to victims. Sometimes a little support, even from a stranger, is just the motivation someone needs to get help.
- Acknowledge they are in a very difficult and scary situation. Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there.
“I’m truly grateful for the 8 months of good and bad times at Sojo. It definitely helped me gain a sense of belonging and independence.”