You might think that something as simple as talking to a friend about abuse couldn’t possibly make a difference, but it really does.

If you think a friend or loved one is being abused, talk to them about it. Listen to them. Let them know you care. You do not have to be an expert. You just need to be a friend. Just knowing that someone cares enough to ask about the abuse can break through the wall of isolation that can exist around survivors of relationship abuse.

If your friend reveals something, or you have seen or heard about things going on in their relationship that concern you, it can be overwhelming but these phrases can help:

  • “I care about you, and I’m concerned for you.”
  • “I’ve seen (or heard about) some things that make me uncomfortable (or scared).”
  • “I know some people you can talk to about what’s going on… (and encourage them to call or meet with an advocate).”

What if they decide to remain in the relationship?

Sometimes it can be frustrating when a friend returns to, or stays in, an abusive relationship. It is important to understand that there are many reasons for these decisions.

Just as ending any relationship is a process, leaving an abusive relationship takes time

Here are a few tips that will help someone who is not ready to leave an abusive relationship.

  • Listen, without judging.
    Often a person who is being abused believes their abuser’s negative messages about them. They may feel responsible, ashamed, inadequate and afraid that you will judge them. Telling the survivor what to do can be just as controlling as the abuser.

  • Tell her the abuse is not her fault.
    Explain that violence in a relationship is never acceptable. There is no excuse for it and it is never the survivor’s fault.

  • Be honest and supportive.
    Tell them you are afraid for their safety. Tell them you want to help, but do not pressure your friend to leave. Avoid language that may seem controlling or judgmental like “You need to…” “You should…” “Why don’t you…” “You have to…”

  • Make sure she knows she is not alone.
    When and if they want help, it is available. Let them know that domestic violence tends to get worse and become more frequent with time and that it rarely goes away on its own.

  • Explain that relationship abuse is a crime,
    and that she can seek protection from the police or courts.

  • Suggest that she develop a safety plan in case of emergency.
  • Safety plans can be quite complex and overwhelming. Let them know an advocate is always available to help and that our services are 100% confidential and 100% free.

  • Think about ways you might feel comfortable helping them.
    If they decide to leave the relationship, they may need money, assistance finding a place to live, and a place to store their belongings or a ride to a safe place.

  • Get advice.
    If you want to talk with someone yourself, to get advice about a particular situation, contact DVSBF at (509)582-9841.