How can I help a friend or family member who is being abused?
Don’t be afraid to let them know that you are concerned for their safety. Help them recognize the abuse. Tell them you see what is going on and you want to help. Help them to recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.
Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation. Encourage their strength and courage. Let them know that the abuse is not their fault – the abuser, not the victim, is responsible for the abuse. Let them know they are not alone.
Be supportive. Listen to them. Remember that it may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know you are available to help whenever they need it. What they need most is someone who will listen to and believe them and who can help them decide what to do.
Be non-judgmental. Respect their decisions. There are many complex reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may break up with and go back to the abuser many times. Do not criticize them for doing that. They will need your support even more during those times. Do not make them feel bad for their choices – even if you think these choices are wrong.
Encourage them to do things with you and other friends and family and to take part in other activities outside of the relationship.
If they end the relationship, continue to be supportive of them once they are alone. Even though the relationship was abusive, they will probably feel sad and lonely when it is over. They may be tempted to get back together with the abuser, and will especially need your support at that time.
Help them develop a safety plan.
Encourage them to talk to people who can give them help and guidance. Offer to go with them to find a counselor or support group, or to talk to their family, friends or teachers. If they are going to the police, to court, or to see a lawyer, offer to go along, but make sure to let them do the talking.
Remember that you cannot “rescue” them. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the victim has to be the one to choose to do something about it. You should be there to support them and to help them find their own way to escape the abuse and make themselves safe.
Have more questions about how to help someone you care about? Contact Break the Cycle.
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