“We rise by lifting others.”- Robert Ingersoll
As the Outreach Specialist for the WCA one of the most asked questions I get is, “how do I help my friend who is in an abusive relationship?” Someone you care about might have disclosed abuse or you might have seen some red flags and warning signs within their relationship. The important thing to know is that you are not alone. While this is a difficult conversation to have, there are many different ways to help and support your friend or family member.
One of the first things I mention is our shoe card. This vital piece of information has the first step for someone to get help — the WCA’s 24-hour hotline. I suggest giving one to your friend and letting them know that when they are ready, they can call and the WCA’s client advocates will help with information referrals, crisis counseling or safety planning. It is important to know that you should not push anyone to leave when they are not ready because they know their situation — and abusive partner — the best. Something that many people do not know about our hotline is that anyone can call for information.
Having access to resources is not the only way you can help support someone you care about. Here is a list of ways to help someone in an abusive relationship:
- Listen, believe, and validate them. Let him/her know that you care and you want them to be safe.
- Do not ask questions that imply blame. Someone who is being abused is not responsible for their partner’s choices or violence, and does not deserve shame or blame.
- Do not be critical of the abusive partner — instead make firm statements that physical violence, emotional, verbal and/or any abuse of any kind — under any circumstance, is unacceptable.
- Do not assume that they are ready to leave the relationship or that you know what is best for her/him. Don’t pressure them to make quick decisions.
- Become a comfort zone for them, assure them that their conversation with you will not be revealed to their abuser.
- Assist them in getting legal help if necessary or with other sources of protection, such as protective orders, restraining orders, changing current phone numbers, etc.
- Do not force them or put pressure to not see the abuser. It may be very difficult to leave the relationship for many reasons. Respect their choices.
- Do not advise them to leave or judge them for staying. People are the best experts in their own lives and ultimately know what is best for themselves at any particular time.
- Provide information and resources in a non-judgmental and gentle manner so that they are able to make educated and informed decisions about their future.
- Provide a safe environment and opportunities for them to become aware of available resources, explore their options, and know that they do not deserve to be abused.
- Don’t underestimate the danger. Frequently, the most dangerous time for someone being abused is when they leave the abuser. If you fear for their safety, call 911 immediately.