It can be very stressful to suspect that a friend or family member is experiencing Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence is a pattern of abusive behavior used by the abuser to gain or maintain control over the victim. Domestic Violence is very complex, and your loved one is the expert on her own situation and what she needs to stay as safe as possible. You can help by supporting your loved one’s decisions and not pressuring her to do what you think is best. Remind your loved one that you care about her and that she deserves safety and respect.
1. Let her know that you are concerned for her safety. Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse. Tell her you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help her recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that she deserves a healthy, non-violent relationship. Focus on behaviors (ex: “I saw him grab your arm”); do not insult her partner (ex: “He’s a jerk”).
2. Acknowledge that she is in a very difficult and scary situation. Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure her that she is not alone and that there is help and support available.
3. Be supportive. Listen to your friend or family member. Remember that it may be difficult for her to talk about the abuse. Let her know that you are available to help whenever she may need it. What she needs most is someone who will believe and listen to her. Ask her what she thinks might help her stay safer.
4. Don’t judge her decisions. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. She may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize her decisions or try to guilt her. She will need your support even more during those times.
5. Encourage her to participate in activities with friends and family.
6. If she ends the relationship, continue to be supportive of her. Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. She will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Encourage her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Estes Valley Victim Advocates provides counseling and support groups. Offer to go with her to talk to family and friends. If she has to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support, but let her do the talking.