Ways to Help a Victim of Domestic Violence

Original Post: Ways to Help a Victim of Domestic Violence 

If you know or suspect someone is a victim of domestic violence, you might feel clueless about the best way to help. Don’t let a fear of saying the wrong thing prevent you from reaching out. Waiting for the perfect words could keep you from taking the opportunity to change a life. The world for many domestic abuse victims can be lonely, isolated, and filled with fear. Sometimes reaching out and letting them know that you are there for them can provide tremendous relief.

How to Help

Use the nine tips that follow to help you support someone in this vulnerable situation.

Make Time for Them

If you decide to reach out to an abuse victim, do so during a time of calm. Getting involved when tempers are flaring can put you in danger. Also, make sure to set aside plenty of time in case the victim decides to open up. If the person decides to disclose years of pent-up fear and frustration, you will not want to end the conversation because you have another commitment.

Start a Conversation

You can bring up the subject of domestic violence by saying “I’m worried about you because…..” or “I’m concerned about your safety…” or “I have noticed some changes that concern me…”

Maybe you’ve seen the person wearing clothing to cover up bruises, or noticed that the person suddenly became unusually quiet and withdrawn. Both can be signs of abuse.

Let the person know that you will be discreet about any information disclosed. Do not try to force the person to open up; let the conversation unfold at a comfortable pace.

Listen Without Judgment

If the person decides to talk, listen to the story without being judgmental, offering advice, or suggesting solutions. Chances are if you actively listen, the person will tell you exactly what they need. Give the person the full opportunity to talk.

You can ask clarifying questions, but mainly just let the person vent their feelings and fears. You may be the first person in which the victim has confided.

Learn the Warning Signs

Many people try to cover up the abuse for various reasons, and learning the warning signs of domestic abuse can help you help them:

Physical Signs:

  • Black eyes
  • Busted lips
  • Red or purple marks on the neck
  • Sprained wrists
  • Bruises on the arms

Emotional Signs:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Overly apologetic or meek
  • Fearful
  • Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Anxious or on edge
  • Substance abuse
  • Symptoms of depression
  • Loss of interest in once enjoyed activities and hobbies

Behavioral Signs:

  • Becoming withdrawn or distant
  • Canceling appointments or meetings at the last minute
  • Being late often
  • Excessive privacy concerning their personal life
  • Isolating themselves from friends and family

Believe the Victim

Because domestic violence is more about control than anger, often the victim is the only one who sees the dark side of the perpetrator. Many times, others are shocked to learn that a person they know could commit violence.

Consequently, victims often feel that no one would believe them if they told people about the violence. Believe the victim’s story and say so. For a victim, finally having someone who knows the truth about their struggles can bring a sense of hope and relief.

Offer the victim these assurances:

  • I believe you
  • This is not your fault
  • You don’t deserve this.

Validate the Victim’s Feelings

It’s not unusual for victims to express conflicting feelings about their partner and their situation. These feelings can range from:

  • Guilt and anger
  • Hope and despair
  • Love and fear

If you want to help, it is important that you validate her feelings by letting her know that having these conflicting thoughts is normal. But it is also important that you confirm that violence is not okay, and it isn’t normal to live in fear of being physically attacked.

Some victims may not realize their situation is abnormal, because they have no other models for relationships and have gradually become accustomed to the cycle of violence. Tell the victim that violence and abuse aren’t part of healthy relationships. Without judging, confirm to them that their situation is dangerous, and you are concerned for their safety.

Reasons Why Victims Stay

It can be hard to understand why someone you care about would seemingly choose to stay in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. Here are a few reasons why it’s not easy to part ways.

  • Fear of harm if they leave
  • They still love their partner and believe they will change
  • Their partner promised to change
  • A strong belief that marriage is “for better or worse”
  • Thinking the abuse is their fault
  • Staying for the children
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Fear of isolation or loneliness
  • Pressure from family, community, or church
  • Lack of means (job, money, transportation) to survive on their own