What can I do if I have a friend or family member who is a victim of domestic violence?

If you have a friend or family member who is a victim of domestic violence, you are not alone. A victim will often confide in either a friend or family member about the situation they are going through. However, don't feel helpless as they confide in you about the abuse. There are practical things you can do to help them during this difficult time in their life. Here are some tips:
  • Listen
    Listening is one of the most important things you can do. Remember they are confiding in you while they have kept this a secret from others. Find a quiet place where you can talk safely and without interruption. Encourage them to talk about the abuse but at their own pace.
  • Believe them
    Do not deny the abuse is happening and do not judge them. Show them you are supportive no matter what they decide to do about their relationship.
  • Respect them
    Show your friend or family member that you respect their ability to handle this situation and their ability to cope with it. Your respect will help build their self-confidence and help them regain their own strength to deal with the abuse.
  • Respect their feelings and don’t blame
    In cases of domestic violence, victims need their feelings validated. They do not need to be blamed for the abuse. To ignore the abuse will only serve to keep their feelings inside and cause the problem to get worse. Blaming the victim is how the abuser would justify the abuse. Let the victim know that no one has the right to be abused.
  • Do not advise
    As difficult as it may be, it is recommended that you not give advice unless you are a trained professional, especially when your friend first confides in you. The best thing to do is to help your friend or family member identify their options and the consequences which might follow.
  • Discuss Resources and Safety
    Talk to your friend or family member about the different services available to help victims of domestic violence (do your research first). Discuss how to obtain the available services and talk to them about creating a safety plan. Encourage them to not ignore the problem and to deal with it for the sake of themselves and their family. Offer to accompany them if they need your support to places like shelters, legal aid, etc.
  • Do NOT speak to the abusive partner
    If the abusive partner finds out you know about what is going on, he/she will most likely get even angrier and take it out on their partner. This time it might be worse than before and could be used as a punishment for telling others about the problem. Also, your friend may decide not to share with you in the future.
  • Keep in contact with them
    One tactic abusers use is isolating their victims from family and friends. This makes it much easier to keep abusing their partner since no one is around to object. Keep in contact with your friend or family member as much as possible. This is done to ensure victims have a link with the outside world.
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