Helping Friends and Family
Some warning signs that a friend or family member may be experiencing abuse include:
- Their partner puts them down in front of other people
- They are constantly worried about making their partner angry
- They make excuses for their partner’s behavior
- Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive
- They have unexplained marks or injuries
- They have stopped spending time with family and friends
- They are depressed or anxious, or you notice changes in their personality
If someone you love is being abused, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to help. Your instinct may be to “save” them from the relationship, but it is not that easy. There are many reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship, and leaving can be a very dangerous time for a victim.
Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help a person in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions. Additionally, you can offer support in various ways:
Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation, be supportive and listen.
Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there.
Respect your friend or family member's decision. There are many reasons why victims stay in an abusive relationship. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. (NCCDV says average is 8 times) Do not criticize their decisions or try and make them feel guilty. They will need your support even more during those times.
Remember that you cannot “rescue” them.
Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately, they are the one who has to make the decision about what they want to do. It is important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to a safe place.
If they end the relationship, continue to be supportive of them.
Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.
Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get and stay safe away from their abusive partner. Remember that you can call Hotline to find local support groups and information on staying safe.
Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.
The Outer Banks Hotline provides counseling, support groups and advocacy. Offer to go with them. If they have to go to the police, court or lawyers office, offer to go along for moral support.