How do I help other victims of abuse?

Some background, some drama

If you have a friend who is the victim of domestic violence, you're not alone. Relatives and friends are those who victims will confide in in these situations. But don't feel helpless as your relative or friend confides in you about the abuse. It’s important that you just be there for them and support them till they tide over the crisis.

Do’s and Don’ts

If you suspect a friend or family member is in an abusive relationship, talking with them about it can be hard. The most important thing you can do is to let them know that they have support and options to leave the relationship. The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide you and to help others victims of abuse.

Do’s

  • Listening is one of the most important things you can do. Encourage them to talk about the abuse.
  • Show them that you support them and are not judging them.
  • Respect their ability to handle this situation and cope with it. This can help them regain their own strength and build confidence to deal with it.
  • Respect their feelings. To ignore the abuse is wrong and will only serve to keep their feelings inside and the problem to worsen.
  • Tell them they are not to blame. This is important because blame is how the abuser often justifies the abuse. Let them know that no one has the right to abuse another.
  • Encourage them to seek the help of a counsellor. Accompany them if they need your support to places like shelters, legal aid, etc.
  • Keep in contact with your friend to ensure that he/she is not suffering alone.
  • Don’t tell them to leave or criticise them for staying. Although you may want them to leave, they have to make that decision in their own time.
  • Acknowledge their strengths and frequently remind them that they are coping well with a challenging and stressful situation.

Dont’s

  • Don't be afraid to tell them that you're concerned for their safety. Help your friend or family member recognize the abuse while acknowledging that they are in a very difficult and dangerous situation.
  • Don’t confront. There are many reasons why individuals experiencing abuse don't reach out to family and friends. It's important to recognize if they are ready to talk about their experiences while offering support.
  • Don’t criticize or make them feel guilty. They needs you to be helpful, not hurtful.
  • Don’t advise. The best thing to do is to help your friend reach their own decisions about what to do and when to do it. Help them identify their own options and consequences which might follow.

Sources and citations