Help a Friend or Family Member
Are you concerned that someone you care about is experiencing abuse? Maybe you’ve noticed some warning signs, including:
- Their partner puts them down in front of other people
- They are constantly worried about making their partner angry
- They make excuses for their partner’s behavior
- Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive
- They have unexplained marks or injuries
- They’ve stopped spending time with friends and family
- They are depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in their personality
If someone you love is being abused, it can be so difficult to know what to do. Your instinct may be to “save” them from the relationship, but it’s not that easy. After all, there are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, and leaving can be a very dangerous time for a victim.
Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help a person in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions. Additionally, you can offer support in various ways
Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation, be supportive and listen
Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen.
Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.
If they end that relationship, continue to be supportive of them
Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family
Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get and stay safe away from their abusive partner. Remember that you can call the hotline to find local support groups and information on staying safe.
Help them develop a safety plan
Check out our information on creating a safety plan for wherever they are in their relationship — whether they’re choosing to stay, preparing to leave, or have already left.
Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance
Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Call us at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) to get a referral to one of these programs near you. Offer to go with them. If they have to go to the police, court or lawyer’s office, offer to go along for moral support.
Remember that you cannot ‘rescue’ them
Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately they are the one who has to make the decisions about what they want to do. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to safety and peace.
Important points to remember when helping your teen are:
- Accept what your child is telling you, listen and be supportive. Even when you don’t understand or agree with their decisions, try not to judge them. 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. More than anything, they need to know they can trust you and rely on you.
- 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.
It may be helpful to direct teens to resources where they can talk about their situation anonymously and confidentially. Loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, is available 24/7 to empower young people to prevent and end abusive relationships
- Teens can call 1-866-331-9474 (or for Deaf/hearing impaired individuals: 1-866-331-8453 TTY or video phone 1-855-812-1001, chat live at loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522 to speak with a trained peer advocate about healthy, unhealthy or abusive dating relationships.
- Teens can find information on what a healthy dating relationship is, how to communicate better and tips for dealing with unhealthy or abusive relationships.
- Teens can find guides on staying safe in the world of social media, online stalking and cyber-bullying.
- Parents, friends and teachers can also get information on abuse and learn how to help a teen they know who might be in an abusive relationship.
VISIT OUR “RESOURCES” PAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION.
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.