By Heather, Advocate
If someone you care about has been facing abuse from their partner and they ask for your help it can be overwhelming to figure out what to do, so we’ve compiled some tips to make your help, well…helpful!
Don’t assume, ask! No matter how well you know a survivor, the only person who can tell you how they feel or what they need is them. Calling the police when your neighbor is being yelled at may put them in danger if that’s not something they’ve asked you to do. Survivors of intimate partner violence have already been dealing with their abusive partner disregarding their wants, needs and boundaries, so to help a survivor it’s vital that you respect their autonomy. The best way to do that is with one simple question–”How can I help?”
Work smarter, not harder: It may be useful to think of helping a friend who is facing or has just left an abusive relationship as you would think of helping someone who is grieving the death of someone they loved. Framing your help this way, especially around the house, can ensure you don’t displace something that has big memories or emotions attached to it. If your friend or family member asks you to pick up groceries, for example, a list will likely be inadequate; instead, take pictures of the labels of the brands and products your friend is used to—why? Because there’s comfort in consistency. Similarly, before picking up around the house or throwing anything away, check in with your friend.
Safety first: At The Hotline, we talk about safety for a good reason: every year more than 12 million people in the United States are abused by a current or former intimate partner. No matter what a survivor has asked you to do, the first thing you should talk about is how to create a safety plan. Basically, this means thinking through all of the possible outcomes of any given action the abuser may take and prepare yourself for how you could stay safe if they were to occur. From pregnancy and kids to pets and travel, and everything in between, safety planning is important for everyone who has been threatened by an abuser. Your loved one knows their abusive partner or ex-partner better than anyone, so they’re the best judge of what will keep them—and you—safe.
Take care of yourself: This last tip may feel counterintuitive because your loved one has asked you to help them, but we know dealing with abuse and its aftermath can be really difficult for people who love survivors too. It’s crucial that you listen to your own instincts and respect your body’s needs for food, water, movement, sleep and happiness. It’s OK to take a day, or even a week off, to recharge your emotional battery and focus your energy on things that relax you and bring you joy. Think about it like being on an airplane—you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can help anyone else!
If someone you know has asked you for help dealing with or escaping an abusive partner, first, encourage them to reach out to The Hotline via phone or chat, if it’s safe, and then, you can call or chat with us too. Our advocates can help you make a safety plan that’s customized to your friend or family member’s situation, and help you find articles and examples of safety planning to share with your loved one as well. We’re here 24/7/365 to help everyone affected by abuse. Call us at 1-800-799-7233 or chat with an advocate now using the “Chat Online Now” button at the top of the page.