How to Help

How to Help
How to Help A Survivor of Domestic Violence:   At some point or another, you may have witnessed your friends navigating through difficult relationships.  It is painstaking to observe those that you love go through traumatic events.  It is extremely emotional, painful and even frightening for your loved one as well. If you have ever encountered a situation, in which, one of your friends had an abusive partner we will offer strategies on how to engage with your friend.

1. Acknowledge to yourself what you’re feeling about the violence. 

This must be your first step. Otherwise, your feelings, be they fear, disgust, or anger, will literally leak out of you on to your friend who needs you. And you surely don’t want that to happen.  

So, recognize your feelings and resolve them within yourself before making any efforts to help your friend.

2. Prepare yourself that your friend who’s been abused might show physical signs of harm. 

Bruised eyes, face, or arms, cuts on the face, and possibly even broken bones or worse can result from a domestic violence incident. 

Remind yourself that even though your friend might appear to have been greatly harmed, the fact is that she’s alive, walking, and talking. Also, remember that these physical signs will heal and hopefully not leave scars.

3. Ask questions that empower your friend. 

With asking simple questions first, you can help your friend begin to re-build a personal sense of empowerment. For example, when you first see her and are walking toward her, ask, “Is it okay if I hug you?” She’ll likely say, “Yes.” You can then state, “I’m so relieved to see you.”   

Ask her another empowering question: “Would you like to talk about it? If so, I’m ready to listen. If not, that’s okay, too.”

4. Make yourself accessible. Your friend may be feeling fear and confusion about where her life is heading. 

Let her know how to quickly get in touch with you. Give her all your phone numbers and offer to let her stay with you for a few days if she doesn’t wish to be alone at night.” Use your own judgment on these issues to recognize whether she’s depending on you too much or not getting better and more self-confident as time passes.

5. Suggest your friend call a counselor or domestic violence professional/advocate.  If you see behaviors or signs in your friend that concern you, bring up the notion of getting some professional assistance. The best way is to use gentle honesty. “I’m concerned about you losing so much weight so quickly and you’re crying quite a bit. Have you considered calling a counselor to talk to? It might help you to heal emotionally. I’ll go with you the first time or two, if you want me to.

6. Check in with your friend regularly. 

It’s good for her to know that you’re thinking about her and that you “have her back.” Send her texts, give quick cell phone calls, or even stop by after work to let her know you’re there for her. She’ll most likely appreciate it and acknowledge that fact to you.

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