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How to Help a Friend or Family Member

If someone is abusing your friend or family member, it’s important to respond in a supportive manner.

Helpful Actions:

  • Listen to and believe the victim.
  • Understand the seriousness of all forms of abuse.
  • Respect the victim’s right to make her/his own decisions, including to stay in the relationship.  Victims are usually most successful at escaping violent relationships when it is something they want and feel supported and safe to do.  Understand that victims may face a real risk of increased violence when they leave a relationship, so staying may feel like the safest option at some points in the relationship.
  • Thank the victim for sharing such personal information, and let the victim know how much you care about her/his well-being.
  • Help the victim to identify options for resources and support available at the Women’s Center, University, the Women’s and Children’s Alliance (WCA), Faces Family Justice Center and the local police.
  • Offer to accompany the victim to a place of support.
  • Help the victim understand the importance of creating a safety plan or obtaining 911 phones.

Unhelpful Actions:

  • Minimizing abuse that is not physical—all forms of abuse can be traumatic.
  • Blaming the victim for staying in the relationship—the dynamics of relationship violence are complex and the victim is NEVER at fault for the abuser’s behaviors.
  • Telling the victim something is wrong with her/him for staying in the relationship—this reinforces the abuser’s messages of low self-worth.
  • Giving advice or pressuring for decisions—the victim understands the dynamics of the abusive relationship best, and will know what feels safe and what actions may trigger a dangerous situation.

Criticizing the abuser instead of the abuser’s behavior—this may cause the victim to be defensive.