How to Help Someone Who is Being Abused
It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s okay to offer help. This applies to anyone in our community – friends, family members, coworkers or anyone who you interact with. Whether someone has reached out to you for help or you have recognized warning signs and suspect abuse, your response can save someone’s life.
The most important aspect of helping someone who is being abused is being non-judgmental, respecting their choices and listening to their needs. It can be a lengthy process for someone to decide to get help because of the many barriers to leaving an abusive relationship. It takes great strength and courage for a survivor to talk about their abuse. It can also be difficult to know what to say and do to help them. We cannot fix what is happening to them, they are the expert on their life and they must make choices for themselves. However, it’s important to offer emotional support and provide resources.
The following are tips on how to respond
in a helpful, supportive way:
Ask for help – When someone reaches out to you for support, it’s okay to not have all the answers. Domestic abuse is a sensitive and difficult situation and hearing of someone’s abuse can be overwhelming. The simple gesture of telling them that you care and want to support them in finding safety can help them recognize that they are valuable and deserve to be treated with respect. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone about their abuse, or you would like some assistance in doing so, call the Emerge! hotline.
Be concerned for their safety – It’s important to verbalize your concern for their well-being. Offering the Emerge! hotline number (520.795.4266) or a safe place to stay will let them know that there are resources available even if they don’t choose to use them at this particular time.
Believe them and say so – When a victim comes to you, it’s important to believe that they are telling the truth! Avoid being judgmental, discrediting them or minimizing their story – your reaction can impact their decision to share it with others. A supportive response will help them, especially if it’s the first time they are sharing the details of their abuse.
Tell them it is not their fault – Many victims believe that they are at fault or responsible for what is happening to them. No one deserves to be abused and domestic abuse is never the victim’s fault. Try to avoid making statements or asking questions that might contribute to blaming the victim, such as, “What did you do that made your partner so mad?” or “If it were me, I would have left by now.”
Don’t confront the abuser – Though hearing about the abuse may make you feel angry, confronting the abuser can put the person they are abusing in greater danger. Be careful to keep what you know confidential, so that the information will not get back to the person being abusive. Don’t send e-mails or leave phone messages that indicate you know anything about the abuse.
Let them make their own decisions– Domestic abuse can make someone feel ashamed and powerless. Telling them what to do in their personal situation will only perpetuate their feeling of inadequacy. Each survivor of abuse will have their own personal response and process in dealing with the abuse. Victims of abuse have already had so much power taken away, your support can help them find their personal power so they feel supported in taking steps towards creating safety in their life.
“Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?”
Domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of age, sex, financial status, sexual orientation or race.
Some people don’t leave an abusive situation immediately because…
- They have a realistic fear that the abusive behavior will escalate and become fatal if they attempt to leave.
- Their friends and family may not support their leaving.
- If they leave, they face the difficulties of single parenting and having less money.
- Along with the manipulation, fear and intimidation, there is a mix of good times, love, and hope.
- They don’t have any information about or access to safety and support.