How to Support a Victim of Domestic or Sexual Violence
Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation, be supportive and listen.
Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen.
Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.
If they end the relationship, continue to be supportive of them.
Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.
Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get and stay safe away from their abusive partner. Remember that you can call the hotline to find local support groups and information on staying safe.
Help them develop a safety plan
Check out our information on Creating a Safety Plan for wherever they are in their relationship — whether they’re choosing to stay, preparing to leave, or have already left.
Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.
Call Bay Area Women’s Center at 989-686-4551 or 800-834-2098, 24 hours a day. Offer to go with them. If they have to go to the police, court or lawyer’s office, offer to go along for moral support.
Remember that you cannot “rescue” them.
Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately they are the one who has to make the decisions about what they want to do. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to safety and peace.
Safety Planning for Family and Friends
As friends and family members, you can help someone in an abusive relationship make a safety plan using the safety planning tool. Try to remember:
Listen and be supportive. Even when you don’t understand or agree with their decision -- don't judge. It can make them feel worse.
Connect them to resources and information in their area. Call BAWC to find information to share.
Don’t post information about your loved one on social networking sites. Never use sites like Facebook or Foursquare to reveal their current location or where they hang out. It's possible their partner will use your post to find them.
Allow the person you're trying to help to make up their own mind. Leaving an unhealthy or abusive relationship may be difficult and even dangerous. Avoid blaming or belittling comments. Abusive partners usually put down their victims regularly, so your loved one's self-esteem may already be low.
Don't give up even though helping is frustrating.