Supporting Someone You Care About
Domestic violence often affects more than just the victim; family and friends may not know how to support someone living with domestic violence. However, your support can help make someone feel less isolated, less afraid, as well as more understood in their situation, and they need it now more than ever.
Here are some ways to help someone living with domestic violence:
- If they are willing to talk about what’s going on, show them you are listening by nodding, making direct eye contact, mimicking their body language, and asking sensitive questions when you don’t understand something.
- If they tell you what’s going on, show that you believe and support them. It is not your job to investigate what happened. You can show support by just listening.
- Try not to give advice or make judgments based on your experience or knowledge or what you think they should do. They know their situation better than anyone else and they know what’s going to keep them safe and what’s going to put them in more danger. Assuming you know better can cause a victim to feel weak, confused, and alone.
- Respect their privacy by promising not to share any information about their situation. If you have a duty to report certain kinds of abuse (like child abuse or elder abuse), tell this to the victim and make sure they understand before they begin talking with you.
- Tell them about resources that are available if you know of any. There are lots of trained professionals who can help victims of abuse. Don’t try to be the “expert” – be a friend.
- Be patient and understanding whether they choose to stay or leave the relationship. On average, victims leave and come back to an abusive relationship 5-10 times before finally leaving for good. Continue to support to them, even as they go through the cycle of abuse.
- Do research to learn more about abuse from organizations like the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
- Know your own limits. Supporting a victim of domestic violence can be very hard emotionally. When you are recharged and in a peaceful mindset you can be the best kind of support. Use the self-care wheel on this page for ways to help maintain your wellbeing.