Supporting Friends and Family Who May Be in a Domestic Abuse Situation
When our loved ones are struggling and in pain, it can be very difficult to know what to do to help them. Seeing friends and family in an abusive relationship can be particularly challenging. We just “want to shake them” and have them see what we see and follow our advice. But coming on too strong with our opinions and advice can backfire on us, causing our loved ones to stop confiding in us.
Here are some ways you can support your loved one who may be in a domestic abuse situation:
Listen Without Judgement
Victims of abusive relationships have to navigate a lot of feelings and confusion. Many still feel love for their abuser, and that can be hard for us to understand. If we criticize their abuser they may become defensive. There may be many understandable reasons someone who is being abused is choosing to stay and it can feel confusing, sad, and lonely to face the reality of leaving. Refrain from advice and listen without judgment. Show empathy.
Do not question their experience. Their abuser likely creates a sense of doubt so that they question their own sense of reality. Listen with curiosity and validate their experience of the situation.
Your loved one needs to be reassured that the abuse was not their fault. They also need to know that they are not alone, that they have a support network of people who love and care about them very much.
Never Pressure to Leave
While it is tempting and understandable to encourage your loved one to leave an abusive relationship, there are many valid reasons that make leaving not an easy, or even safe, choice. It is crucial to have a safety plan in place before leaving an abusive relationship.
Encourage Professional Guidance
Your loved one will greatly benefit from talking to someone who can guide them through their complex emotions. Importantly, a professional can also help them create a safety plan. Look for a local domestic violence agency that offers counseling and support groups. Offer to go with them if it will help them take that first step.
I specialize in helping domestic abuse survivors navigate their trauma and find themselves again. If you’d like to contact me, I’d be happy to discuss how I can help.
And if you or someone you love is in immediate jeopardy, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800)799-7233.