There are several ways to help someone who is being abused.

If you know or suspect that someone is in an abusive or unhealthy relationship and want to help, listed below are some things you can do:

You SHOULD:

  • Tell your friend you are concerned for their safety and health.
  • Be supportive and let your friend know you are there to help and listen.
  • Tell your friend they do not deserve to be abused.
  • Become informed about abuse and what community services are available.
  • Encourage your friend to talk to someone who can offer counseling and guidance.
  • Focus on your friend’s strengths.
  • Avoid judging your friend. (They may break up and go back to the relationship multiple times. On average 7 to 8 times before finally leaving. It’s hard…and complicated.)
  • Remember that you can’t rescue your friend.
  • Help them make a safety plan.
  • Call 911 immediately if you see or hear an incident occuring.

You Should NOT:

  • Tell your friend what to do or try to rescue the victim by trying to get them out of the abusive relationship. The victim needs to learn to believe in their own abilities to find solutions.
  • Criticize your friend for staying (they’ve probably already been made to feel bad enough about themselves)
  • Not believe your friend’s story
  • Confront the abuser
  • Gossip about the situation
  • Try to be a counselor
  • Get discouraged or give up on a victim. The average person will leave their abuser 7 times before leaving the relationship for good.
  • Offer or promise them things unless you are certain you can follow though. The victims will need people in their life who are consistent and dependable.

Looking for Possible Signs of Abuse

  • Bruises in the shape of fingertips
  • Bruises that don’t seen congruent with explanations
  • Wearing heavy makeup (to conceal bruises)
  • Bruises on both sides of the body. (Accidents usually injure one side)
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, especially during summer
  • Slow movement as if very sore
  • Always rushing home from work/school
  • Always needing “permission” from partner before engaging in activity
  • Partner calling or visiting numerous times a day
  • Unexplained absences from a reliable worker
  • Extreme worry or concern regarding a partner’s reaction
  • Public ridicule by a partner

Mentioning Domestic Violence to the Victim

  • Listen, if the victim is willing to talk
  • Share what you know about the issue
  • Give them our crisis line phone number

Expressing Genuine, Helpful Concern

  • Let the person know that you care and are willing to listen.
  • Don’t force the issue, but allow the victim to talk to you at their own pace.
  • NEVER blame the victim for the abuse (that is what the abuser does) or underestimate their potential danger.
  • Appropriate things to say include:
    • I am worried about you.
    • I am concerned for your safety and the safety of your children.
    • Are you okay?
    • Is there anything I can do for you?
    • You are not alone.

Understanding Why People Stay in Abusive Relationships

  • Frequency and Severity: The abuse may occur over a relatively short period of time, or build slowly of a long period of time and it seems normal. The abuser may say, and the victim may be convinced, that this abuse will be the last time it will ever happen. Generally, the less severe and less frequent the incidents, the more likely a person is more likely to stay.

  • Childhood Experiences: People who grew up in a physically abusive household learned at an early age that it’s okay to hit someone you love when they’ve done something wrong. They were taught to never question authority or the man of the house. They were never allowed to voice their opinion and think they don’t have the right to speak up.

  • Economic Dependence: Some victims believe it may be worth putting up with abuse in order to keep financial stability. Economic conditions today afford a woman with children few viable options. Government assistance is very limited, and many dread welfare. Their partner may control all the money, and they may have no access to cash, checks or important documents.

  • Fear: Fear of being alone, fear of losing their children, but most of all, fear of the abuser. They may believe their spouse to be all-knowing, and see no real way to protect themselves. Many of those fears are justifiable. If they, or even a neighbor, report the abuse to the police, the abuser will often take revenge upon them. Often, they are so terrified that they will deny the abuse when questioned, for fear of getting it worse if anyone were to found out. Some are afraid that if they report the crime, or tell of the abuse, the abuser might lose their job, which may be the only source of income for the family.

  • Isolation: The abuser is often the only psychological support system for the victim, because the abuser has destroyed all outside relationships. They may have no idea that services are available and they may feel trapped. Religious counselors, general helping agencies, law enforcement and judicial officials are not social workers. They may not be trained in the complexities of battering. Medical personnel often do not identify battered victims. The abuser often threatens to kill them, their children, and anyone else if they report the abuse, cutting off communication with potential help. Relatives get tired of helping, time after time, giving them a place to stay, etc. The average victim leaves the relationship seven times before completely leaving for good. Having no one to talk to, they often don’t even see themselves as being abused.

  • Low Self-Esteem: Over time, victims begin to believe what the abuser says about them. Being in an abusive relationship for a long period of time can cause depression. Severely depressed people cannot take action, not even to help themselves. Often the abuser is violent only with them, which leads the victim to believe that they've done something wrong. They often accept the reasoning that “they deserve the punishment” or that the abuser was just too drunk to know what they were doing. Some people believe that if they could just improve themselves or stop making mistakes that the abuse will stop.

  • Social Stigmas: Others can’t understand why any self-respecting person would stay in an abusive situation. They may be too embarrassed to admit what is going on behind closed doors. They believe they have no power to change the situation.

  • Beliefs About Marriage: Religious and cultural beliefs that God or society demand that they stay loyal & maintain the marriage. Often they stay for the sake of the children needing the other parent and wanting to keep the family together.

  • Personal Beliefs: Victims are often still in love with their abuser. They believe the abuser to be all-powerful and able to find them wherever they go. Many of their fears about the abuser are based in reality, since much of the violence exhibited by the abuser has already happened in the past. Victims are 75 times more likely to be severely injured or killed after they leave the relationship.

  • Guilt: Their partner may make them feel guilty about how much it would hurt them, they can’t live without them, and would kill themselves if they left the relationship. They stay because of guilt, thinking it’s their fault.

  • Hope: They may have many memories of happy times together and hope those times will return. The abuser promises that the behavior will change, that they will never do it again, that they will get help, etc.

Posted by Donald W Reynolds Crisis Intervention Center on Wednesday, November 12, 2014

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