Information for Friends, Family & Neighbors:
It is difficult to see someone you love and care about get hurt; remember that you cannot “rescue” your friend. Although you may not understand, there are many reasons your loved one may be in this relationship. And ultimately, it is his or her decision whether or not to leave that relationship. There are some ways that you can help your loved one find their own way to escape the abuse and become safe. Use the local hotlines as a resource through this process.
What Do I Need to Know?
The serious and painful effects of domestic violence impact the your loved one’s desire and ability to end their relationship. Your friend may have been told the abuse was their fault and they may feel responsible. Even though the relationship was abusive, he or she will probably feel sad and lonely when it is over. Because there are many complex reasons why people stay in abusive relationships they may break up with and go back to the abuser many times. Remember that it may be difficult for your loved one to talk about the abuse.
What to do…
- Listen without judgment.
- Believe your friend.
- Be supportive.
- Acknowledge and validate their feelings about their relationship.
- Don’t be afraid to tell your loved one that you are concerned for their safety and want to help.
- Help your friend recognize that the behavior they’re experiencing is abusive, and that abuse is not “normal.”
- Tell your loved one the abuse is not their fault, and that no one deserves to be treated that way.
- Connect your loved one with resources in their community that can help give your friend information and guidance as they move forward.
- Call a local hotline to get your questions answered.
- Focus on your friend or family member and what they need, not on the abuser. Even if your loved one stays with their abusive partner, it is important that they still feel supported by you and comfortable talking to you about it.
- Be respectful of their decisions, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Encourage your loved one to do things with you and other friends and family members, and to take part in activities outside of the relationship.
- Help your friend develop a plan to end their relationship safely (for more information on safety planning with your loved ones, call a hotline and get connected with someone that can help you).
What not to do…
- Do not wait for your friend to come to you. Ask your friend if they’re alright. Be mindful not to force your loved one to confide in you.
- Do not use labels. Referring to your friend as “victim” or her partner as “abuser” may alienate him or her.
- Do not judge or blame. Don’t say things like:
- “Why don’t you just leave?”
- “What did you do to cause it?”
- “I would never put up with that.”
- Do not pressure them into leaving.
- Do not tell your friend what to do – they are the expert on their situation!
- Do not be a counselor. Just continue to be a friend.