You might think that something as simple as talking to a friend about abuse couldn't possibly make a difference. But it really does. Just knowing that someone cares enough to ask about the abuse can break through the wall of isolation that can exist around victims of relationship abuse. If you think a family member or friend is being abused, talk to them about it. Listen to them. Let them know you care. You don't have to be an expert. You just need to be there.
- Listen, without judging. Often an abused individual believes their abuser's negative messages about them. They may feel responsible, ashamed, inadequate and afraid they will be judged by you.
- Tell them the abuse is not their fault. Explain that physical violence in a relationship is never acceptable. There's no excuse for it – not alcohol or drugs, financial pressure, depression, jealousy or any behavior of hers.
- Make sure they know they are not alone. Millions of people of every age, race and religion face abuse, and many find it extremely difficult to deal with the abuse.
- Emphasize that when they want help, it is available. Let them know that domestic violence tends to get worse and becomes more frequent with time and that it rarely goes away on its own. Eliminate isolation by letting them know that they can talk to you when they feel lonely.
- Explain that relationship abuse is a crime and that there are resources. They can seek protection from the police or courts, and help from the Centre Against Abuse hotline 297-827
- Suggest that they develop a safety plan in case of emergency. Have a plan if they need to change residences, etc. Arrange for a safe ride, or keep taxi money on hand. It's a good idea to keep money, important documents, a change of clothes, and an extra set of keys in a safe place, such as at a friend or neighbor's house.
- Empower them to make their own decisions. They have been stripped of power in their relationship, so it is important to validate their feelings and let them make their own choices.
- Get advice. If you want to talk with someone yourself to get advice about a particular situation, contact the Centre Against Abuse hotline 297-8278
“How to Help Someone Who Is Being Abused” is courtesy of the Family Violence Prevention Fund, “Help a Friend in Need”, www.endabuse.org.