Advice for Friends and Family Members
You may have a friend, relative, or neighbor who is being abused. You may have witnessed the violence, heard it, seen physical signs of it, or merely suspected it. What should you do?
- Ask direct questions, gently. Give the victim opportunities to talk. Don’t provide solutions.
- Listen without judging. Victims often believe their abusers’ negative messages. They feel responsible, ashamed, and inadequate, and they are afraid they will be judged.
- Let the victim know that you support and care about her/him, that she/he is not responsible for the violence. Tell her/him that the abuser is accountable for what he/she does and that only the abuser can stop the violence.
- Let her/him know that it is likely that, despite all promises, the violence will continue and escalate.
- Emphasize that when she/he is ready, she/he can make a choice to leave the relationship, and that help is available.
- Provide victim with information about local resources: the phone number of the local domestic violence hotline, support groups, counseling, shelter programs, and legal advocacy services.
- She/he may need financial assistance, or help finding a place to live or a place to store belongings. She/he may need assistance to escape. Decide whether you feel comfortable helping in these ways. The abuser may become violent with anyone who gets between him and his victim.
- Contact your local domestic violence program for advice or guidance.
- Explain that physical violence in a relationship is never acceptable, at any time. There is no excuse for it — not alcohol or drugs, not financial pressures, not depression, not jealousy.
- Make sure she/he knows that she/he is not alone — that millions of victims from every ethnic, racial, educational and socioeconomic group suffer from abuse, and that many find it difficult to leave.
- Explain that domestic violence is a crime — as much a crime as robbery or rape __ victims can seek protection from the justice system.
- If she/he has children, reinforce concerns for them, letting the victim know that domestic violence is damaging to children. You may want to support the children and let them know you are there for them too.
- If she/he is planning to leave, remind the victim to take important papers, such as birth certificates, passports, health insurance documents, etc.
- If she/he remains in the relationship, continue to be her/his friend while at the same time firmly communicating that she/he does not deserve to be in this violent situation.
- If you see or hear an assault in progress, call the police. Because domestic assaults are dangerous, do not physically intervene.
Source: “You Can Make A Difference!”
The Family Violence Prevention Fund
383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 304
San Francisco CA 94103-5133
Phone: (415) 252-8900
Fax: (415) 252-8991
Used by permission of the
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges