How do you help a friend who is being abused?
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to know when someone is being abused, and many people just don’t know how to help, despite how much they care. This can also be true for younger women, especially teenagers who may not have had any education about how to distinguish between health and unhealthy relationships.
With this knowledge in place, we started our Healthy Love series - monthly talks for teens. Aiming to educate youth on relationships, abuse, and gender stereotypes, our goal is to reach as many teens as possible so that they are better equipped with knowledge on healthy and unhealthy relationships, as well as warning signs of abuse, and how to help a friend in need.
Abuse happens in many forms and there is no simple solution for helping a friend who is experiencing abuse. It’s important to remember that it is always the survivor’s decision to end the relationship. As we see over and over again, the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when the victim decides to leave the perpetrator. This is why a safety plan is vital when ending the relationship, and constant support is essential.
The information we’re sharing today is helpful for people of all ages, teens to older adults. If you find yourself in a situation where a friend is in abusive relationship, make sure you know the best possible ways in which you can help her.
5 Ways to Help a Friend Being Abused
Let Her Know You’re Concerned
Have an honest talk with your friend about your concerns. Ensure you are compassionate and talk without judgement. Let her you know you are worried and care about her, and you’re there for her to talk to whenever she is ready. You might be the only person she feels comfortable talking to. There’s also a chance this will help validate any fears she has about the abuse, as abusers often downplay their actions and behaviour in order to invalidate their victim’s beliefs and feelings. No matter what: let her know you support her. She might get defensive or deny the abuse. Make sure she knows you just want to help and you will support her in any way.
Listen to her, ensure her she is not alone, and let her know you want to help. If she does want assistance, ask her what you can do to help her. Maybe she needs someone to talk to at first, transportation to appointments or meetings, or help with childcare. You can also make sure she knows you will help when she is ready to seek more long-term help, such as leaving the relationship or the home. She also might need a place to stay. However, it is important that she make these decisions and not feel pressured. Have the contact information for crisis lines and support and advocacy services with you so that if she is ready to seek help, you have the resources and information readily available. Encourage her to speak to advocates and people in the area who can help her, if she’s ready.
Help Her Make a Safety Plan
A safety plan is essential, especially when she decides she is ready to leave the relationship. There is a lot involved in a safety plan, from packing necessary items, to ensuring she has a safe place to go. Check out this valuable resource that will help with safety planning for women who are being abused.
The Abuse is NOT Her Fault
Many abusive partners often blame the victim for the abuse, resulting in a great deal of shame, confusion and painful feelings for the person being abuse. Let your friend know that the abuse is in no way her fault. There is never, ever a justification for abuse.
Keep in Touch
If she decides she is not ready to leave the relationship, make sure you stay in touch and keep checking in. Encourage her to seek activities and friends outside of the relationship if possible. Talking to other friends or family members can help with the isolation. Continue to offer help, no matter what choice she makes, and let her know you are there no matter what, and whenever she is ready, you’ll be there. It can be frustrating and hard to see a friend and loved one stay in an abusive relationship, but it’s imperative you continue offering your support. Knowing she has a safe place to go or person to talk to and support her can make all the difference. While you cannot force her to leave the relationship, you can let you know that you’ll help, no matter what she decides to do.
If you think or know someone is being abused, please don’t hesitate to seek help. Domestic abuse is an issue that affects us all and we all have a responsibility to help end violence against women and children.
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