How to Help a Friend
How to talk to someone you think may be abused
“What helped me the most was a neighbor who confronted me when she hardly knew me and offered to help whenever I was ready to take the first step.”
—Teresa, survivor of domestic violence
Whether you know it or not, some of the people in your life may be facing violence at home—a friend, a coworker or even a family member. For many reasons, it’s hard for victims to acknowledge they are being abused—especially when the abuser is supposed to be a loved one.
There are lots of ways you can tell if something is wrong—unexplained injuries or explanations that don’t quite make sense. Canceling plans at the last minute or fear of making their partner angry when they do something on their own.
If your friend, relative or neighbor is being abused, you can be an important lifeline.
- Let them know you care. Ask direct questions gently. Give them time to talk. Ask again a few days later. Don’t rush into providing solutions.
- Listen without judging. Your friend believes the abuser’s negative messages. Victims feel ashamed, inadequate and afraid of your judgment. Your most important refrain is: “It’s not your fault!” Explain that there’s never an excuse for physical violence in a relationship—not alcohol or drugs, not financial pressures, depression, jealously … not anything.
- If your friend remains in the relationship, continue to express your concern. Remember that it takes most victims several tries to leave an abusive relationship.
- Tell your friend that help is available and to call The Family Place Hotline at 214-941-1991 or, if the victim lives outside of this area, the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. On the other end of the line is a caring person with answers and support.
- Tell your friend to make a plan for leaving and to have important papers ready—birth certificates, passports, health insurance documents, food stamps, photo ID/driver’s license, checkbooks, Social Security cards, immunization records, etc. Encourage your friend to document the abuse in medical records and to talk to medical professionals about the abuse. Remind your friend that domestic violence is a serious crime and that victims can seek protection from the police and courts by calling 911 and seeking a protective order.