Help a Friend or Family Member
This page contains information on how to help someone:
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Help a friend or family member who is being abused
Reaching out to a friend, relative or co-worker you suspect is in abusive relationship can be difficult and emotionally challenging. The following are tips on how to start the conversation. If you want further information or advice it may help to talk to an advocate at your local domestic violence program. They can be reached through the statewide 24 hour hotline 1-866-644-3574.
- Ask direct questions about the situation, gently. Give your friend time to talk. Ask again a few days later. Don’t rush into providing a solution.
- Listen without judging. Your friend, relative or co-worker may believe the abuser’s negative messages. S/he may feel ashamed, inadequate, and afraid of being judged by you.
- Let the person you approach know you care about him/her and that it’s not her/his fault.
- Explain that there’s never an excuse for physical violence in a relationship – not alcohol or drugs, not financial pressure, not depression, not jealousy…..not anything.
- If the person remains in the relationship, continue to be a friend while firmly expressing your concern for her/his safety. Remember that, for many victims, leaving an abusive relationship can take time and may not happen right away.
- Explain that domestic violence is a crime – as much of a crime as robbery or rape – and that victims can seek protection from the police or courts.
- Emphasize that when your friend is ready, she can make a choice to leave the relationship, and that help is available. Also emphasize that domestic violence tends to get worse and becomes more frequent with time, and that it does not go away on its own.
- If your friend has a restraining order, let her know that any contact by the abuser is breaking the law. If she chooses, she can ask the police to arrest the abuser for making contact, especially if there is evidence. Encourage your friend to save letters or e-mail sent from the abuser, or messages left on an answering machine or voice mail, along with the date the contact was made.
- Many battered immigrant victims who have legal immigration status do not know that their batterers cannot take that status away. You should know that if immigrant victims are U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or have a valid visa, they cannot be deported unless they have entered the U.S. on fraudulent documents, violated conditions of their visa, or have been convicted of certain crimes.
Phrases you can use to help:
I’m afraid for you.
Tell your friend that you care and are concerned for her.
I’m afraid for your children.
Children can be harmed by being exposed to battering and at risk of being physically abused also.
It will only get worse.
Statistics show that domestic violence only gets worse and will occur more often over time.
I’m here for you.
Let your friend know you will be there when she or he needs you.
You don’t deserve to be abused.
The abuse is not your friend’s fault.
It's not your fault, I believe you.
Giving reassuring, non-judgmental messages will make your friend feel empowered and supported.
*Phrases were adapted from the AVON Foundation Speak Out Against Domestic Violence Resource Guide. The phrases were recommended by National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Click here to learn more about domestic violence
Help a family member or a friend who has been sexually assaulted
The support and understanding of family and friends can be very helpful to a sexual assault victim. There are many ways you can specifically do this:
- Listen to what he or she says and ask how you can help before doing anything.
- Believe your friend and let her or him know you support her or him.
- Don’t blame your friend for what happened. Let your friend know it wasn’t her or his fault.
- Help your friend make his or her own decisions, instead of pressuring her or him to do what you think is best.
- Encourage the person to seek medical attention and contact a local sexual violence program.
- Don’t confront the person who committed the assault. It could create an unsafe situation for you or your friend.
- Maintain confidentiality.
- Get help for yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed or frightened. Find someone you can talk to about those feelings. Support and information for you and your friend is available through the statewide sexual assault hotline 1-800-277-5570. To find a support center in your area go to our member program page.
Phrases you can use to help:
- “Nothing you did (or didn’t do) makes you deserve this.” or “It’s not your fault.”
- “I’m sorry this happened.”
- “I believe you.”
- “I’m glad you told me what you’re going through.”
- “How can I help you feel safer?”
- “I’ll support your decisions.”
- “You’re not alone."
- “What can I do to help?”
Click here to learn more about sexual assault.
Most stalking victims are pursued by current or former intimate partners. Stalking can occur during the relationship or once it ends. It is important to note that a stalker can be someone the victim doesn’t know at all. Stalking victims are often living in fear for their safety. Below are tips on how to help a friend who is being stalked. For further information speak with an advocate at your local domestic violence program. Advocates can be reached through the statewide 24 hour hotline 1-866-644-3574.
- Listen. Be there. Don't be judgmental. Take the matter seriously.
- Remember that the victim is not responsible for the stalker’s behavior; do not blame the victim for the stalker’s actions.
- Encourage your friend to take the matter seriously and to report the stalking behavior to law enforcement.
- Encourage your friend to speak with an advocate at their local domestic violence program who can help your friend apply for a stalking order of protection and develop a safety plan.
- Get information about local anti-stalking laws and resources.
- Educate yourself on stalkers and stalking behavior.
- Think of ways you can personally help keep your friend safe.
- Your friend may likely feel paranoid or anxious. Be patient. Remember, it will take your friend some time to heal from the situation.
Click here to learn more about stalking.