DVAM Challenge 7: Helping a Loved One

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

DVAM Challenge 7: Helping a Loved One

Helping a friend or family member who is in an abusive relationship can be challenging. If you have noticed that your loved one’s relationship is unhealthy, remember that they need your support. Understand that you can’t fix or change their situation. Only they can choose what to do. For example, if they aren’t concerned for their immediate safety, then you have to respect that.

When talking to your loved one about their relationship, be honest about your concerns, but stay focused on their needs and avoid being judgmental. Say things like, “When you said that your partner did this, that scared me,” and “I’m really concerned about your safety.” Avoid statements like, “Your partner is no good,” or “They need to treat you right.” Don’t talk about the partner directly and avoid attacking your loved one’s actions. Doing this will show your loved one that you care for them and will help to prevent them from feeling defensive.

Ultimately you have to let your loved one make their own decisions about their relationship — even if it means that they choose to stay in an unhealthy relationship. Sometimes it’s difficult to do when you feel that they aren’t making the right choice, but you have to respect them. Try to remember that their abuser is probably controlling them at home and the last thing they want is to have their friends and family try to tell them what to do also.

Regardless of their decision, support them. If they choose to stay in the relationship, help them keep documentation of abuse. You can take notes on a calendar, save a file on your computer or take pictures of injuries. Documentation can be used in court if your loved one ever decides to take legal action against their abuser. You can also help them to find resources in their community or to develop a safety plan.

If your loved one decides to leave, know that the road ahead for them will be difficult. They will need your support more than ever. You can even help them to connect with counselors and survivor’s groups to help them as they move forward.

We often refer people to a book called “Helping Her Get Free” by Susan Brewster. It is a guide for family members and friends of people in abusive relationships. This can be an excellent resource for more in-depth information and tips.

If you have any questions please give us a call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). We can help you to find resources, safety plan and give you more information about what your loved one is experiencing.

For today’s DVAM Challenge, practice active listening. You can do this for any of your friends or family, no matter what their relationship status is.  Truly listen to a friend or family member and concentrate on what it is that they’re saying. Rephrase what you hear them say so that you are deeply engaged in what they are sharing with you. For example, you could say, “I’m hearing you say _____, is that right?” By practicing active listening, we can give better support to those we love.

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  1. 20 years ago I fled from my home with my two small children ages 6 and 2. By then, I was in the 10th year of living in constant fear and isolation. While my first husband had a high profile as a respected business owner, usher and Bible Study going member of our church, most of our community and fellow friends and family members did not know that I was being subjected to emotional and at times physical abuse. I had tried to flee many, many times even before the birth of our first born. The cycle of violence was the one constant status that I could always count on. The day after the last scary encounter where he threatened to take the children, and punched holes in the walls and bedroom door, and pulled all the telephone cords out of the wall, we woke up and went to Church just like always as if nothing happened. Later that Sunday, the children and I kept our play date with a friend and her children, and I confided in her about the truth and the incident that happened that night before. My friend helped us by providing a little bit of pocket money and enough emotional support giving me the strength and courage to leave. That day I fled with my two sons, the clothes on our backs, and one favorite toy for each, and a few hundred dollars. We left all our possessions, our friends, our life and livelihood. The one promise that kept me focused on freedom was of God’s love and HIS words that the Lord God would smooth our rough roads to HIS glory. Leaving was the hardest and most dangerous thing I have ever done, and 20 years later I know it was the right thing to do and I can thank my friends and my family for being there for me. I did not know where the grace of God would show up, but HIS grace showed up in my friend who was able to give me a little cash flow to help us flee, and my parents who were willing not to judge me and love me unconditionally and give me a safe dwelling, and then to my high school friend and her family who gave us safe refuge in their home as we began a new life in a new city. Receving from those who were willing and able to help me and my small children was humiliating, but in the end it saved my life and the life of my children. Casting my doubts aside and leaning on the faith in the Lord brought me the greatest light amidst the darkest hours of my life. Today I am living a life of beauty filled with abundance of love, joy, and peace. My sons are both College Graduates with bright futures and are productive giving men in society. I have a wonderful husband who is my life partner, best friend, and soul mate. Thank God for placing angels in my life to help and guide me. Only YOU, the victim can make the decision to leave the abuse, but when the feeling is so compelling and supports keep showing up, you may just need to take a chance and rely on the help from your family and friends. I’m sure glad that I did. God Bless and Keep You and Don’t Give Up!

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