How Can You Help a Friend or Family Member?
The key is being available to help your teen where they are most comfortable communicating.
A project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, loveisrespect is a multi-media resource filled with interactive tools. It’s a confidential online resource available 24/7 to empower young adults to prevent and end abusive relationships. On this website:
- Teens can text “loveis” to 22522 and get help via text.
- They can participate in an instant message live chat through the homepage.
- They can confidentially create a customized safety plan through an interactive tool that asks a series of questions and provides safety information specific to their situation at school, home and other places.
- Teens can find information on what a healthy dating relationship is. They can take online quizzes and tools to see how good of a partner they are and how well they communicate.
- Teens can find guides on staying safe in the world of social media, online stalking and cyber-bullying.
- Parents, friends and teachers can get information on abuse and learn how to help a teen they know who might be in an abusive relationship.
Teens can also call loveisrespect to talk confidentially with someone: 1-866-331-9474 (or for hearing impaired, 1-866-331-8453 TTY or video phone 1-855-812-1001 (Monday to Friday, 9AM—5PM PST). Peer advocates are available in English and Spanish and through the Language Line in over 170 languages.
As friends and family members, you can help your teen in an unhealthy relationship make a safety plan using the tools above.
The key important points to remember when helping your teen are:
- Listen and be supportive. Even when you don’t understand or agree with their decision, don’t judge. It can make them feel worse.
- Don’t post information about them on social networking sites. Never use sites like Facebook or foursquare to reveal their current location or where they hang out. It’s possible their partner will use your post to find them. Brush up on your knowledge of digital safety.
- Allow them to make up their own mind. Leaving an unhealthy or abusive relationship may be difficult and even dangerous. Avoid blaming or belittling comments. Abusive partners usually put down their victims regularly, so your loved one’s self-esteem may already be low.
- Even though helping can be frustrating, don’t give up. Learn more about how to help others.
- Don’t prevent them from seeing their abusive partner. This can cause them to feel as if they need to keep secrets from you, as well as feel as if decision-making is being taken away from them.
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If someone is experiencing abuse at home, the effects of the abuse are likely to carry over into the work environment as well. You may notice changes in their behavior at work that could indicate that something is wrong. For instance:
- Excessive lateness or unexplained absences
- Frequent use of ‘sick time’
- Unexplained injuries or bruising
- Changes in appearance
- Lack of concentration/being preoccupied more often
- Disruptive phone calls or personal visits from their partner
- Drops in productivity
- Sensitivity about home life or hints of trouble at home
What can you do?
- Follow your instinct and if you feel like you should talk to them about what might be going on, do so. The worst that could happen is that they don’t want to talk – and even then, they at least know that you care.
- Be sure to approach them in a confidential manner, at a time and place without interruptions. When bringing up the topic of domestic violence with your coworker, remember to be nonjudgmental. They may be embarrassed by the situation, and you might be the first person they are telling.
- Consider starting with a simple comment and question like, “You seem a bit preoccupied and stressed. Do you want to talk about it?” Give them the space to share what they want to share with you. Don’t pressure them.
- If your coworker does open up to you about the abuse, listen to what they have to say. Your role is not to fix the problem for them – sometimes, listening can be the most helpful. You might want to pass along some information to them. If it feels appropriate, pass on the number of the hotline.
- If your coworker gives you permission, you can help them document the instances of domestic violence in their life. Take pictures of injuries, write down exact transcripts of interactions, make notes on a calendar of the dates that things happen. Documenting the abuse might help the victim to obtain legal aid later on.
- If your coworker has been open with you about their situation, you can help them learn about their rights. Women’s Law is an excellent resource for information on domestic violence laws and procedures. Browsing this website with your coworker or giving them the link can provide them with crucial information.
- Introduce them to the security guard, or volunteer to meet the security guard with them if they’d like help. Keeping a security guard at the office in the loop can help deter your coworker’s abuser from stopping by, make sure your coworker is escorted safely to and from the office space, and more.
- Ask if they’d like to create a safety plan for their work environment. Ask what they would like you to do if their partner should call or stop by the office. If you’re having trouble coming up with a safety plan on your own, call the hotline for assistance.
- Above all, remember that just supporting your coworker no matter what can make a difference. Respect their decisions – you may not know all of the factors involved. Your coworker may not do what you want or expect them to do. Instead of focusing on being the one to solve the problem for them, focus on being supportive and trustworthy in their time of need.