It is difficult to watch someone you care about struggling in an abusive relationship. It is even harder watching them leave and return to their partner, time and time again. You might feel frustrated, angry, or like giving up on your friend or family member. You might also feel clueless about the best way to help.
Don’t let fear of saying the wrong thing prevent you from reaching out. Victims need and deserve nonjudgmental support but often feel afraid or too ashamed to ask for help. They feel lonely, depressed, confused, isolated, and frequently blame themselves for the abuse. Sometimes just reaching out and letting them know you care and are there for them can provide tremendous relief. Waiting for the perfect words can prevent us from seizing the opportunity to change a life.
Domestic violence is an extremely complex issue. In essence, it evolves from the need for power and control over someone else. Abusers feel entitled to gain and maintain power and control by breaking down the victim’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
Your loved one likely believes they have little control over their lives. Their abusive partner is constantly taking away their right to make their own choices and have their own thoughts and feelings.
Offer them information, resources, choices, and support. Let them know that you trust them to know what’s best for them and their children. This will place power back in their hands.
You may feel a natural impulse to try to “rescue” someone you care about from domestic violence. However, the person being abused needs to make the ultimate decision of whether (and when) to leave and get help.
It is normal for victims to leave and return to an abusive partner seven or more times before leaving for good. Keeping this in mind will help ensure you support them no matter what their decision and continue to provide them with a loving and safe friendship.
It can be tough to support a person’s decision to return or stay with their abusive partner, but avoid giving advice or telling them what you would do. Remember, if a person does not leave on their own terms when they are ready, they are more likely to return to their abusive partner. As frustrating as this may be, someone in a position to support a survivor can play a crucial role in empowering them to stay safe or even leave for good.
How to approach the conversation
Approach the other person at a time and place that is safe and confidential.
Start by expressing concern (i.e., “I am concerned someone may be hurting you, and I am worried about your safety.”)
Take the time to listen and believe what they say.
Tell them the abuse is not their fault.
Communicate that you care about them, and they do not deserve to be hurt.
Let them know they are not alone, and you are there to help.
Offer to help them contact The Friendship Center. Tell them our services are free, confidential, and available 24/7.