comforting a friend

My friend or family member is being abused, what can I do?

  • Set up a time to talk privately and confidentially. Meet in a place with little to no distractions.
  • Encourage conversation but do not push. Remember, the goal is to have your loved one open up to you and feel comfortable in doing so.
  • Do not pass judgment or place blame or guilt. Refrain from saying, “Why don’t you just leave?” Instead, let them know why you are concerned for their safety and that you want to help.
  • Help create a safety plan. This may include planning emergency child care, finding alternate housing and choosing the right time to safely pack and remove belongings.
  • Document, Document, Document. Suggest she/he keep documentation for every incident including time, date and what occurred. It is a good idea for you to also keep documentation of any unexplained bruises or altercations that you may witness. If they are worried about storing this information, offer to keep the documentation on their behalf (including pictures of any injuries, if possible) in a safe place.
  • Encourage outside help. Provide contact information for local and/or national domestic violence hotlines. Encourage her/him to reach out and inquire about laws and other resources available. Womenslaw.org is a great resource and offers state by state legal information.
  • Be supportive. Whether your loved one decides to stay or finds the courage to leave, be supportive. The reasons a victim may stay with their abuser vary and may be difficult for you to understand. The most important thing you can do for your friend is to let them know that you are there and prove it with unconditional love and consistent support. Though you may want to, it is not your job to “save” your loved one. They have to decide to get help and follow through with that decision.
  • Self-care. Watching someone you love go through something as heartbreaking as domestic violence is not only difficult, it’s emotionally draining. Remember to take “me time” and make self-care a priority. It is important (and necessary) to pour into yourself just as much as you pour into others.
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