Guide for Family and Friends

It is always difficult to know when and how to help someone that you know or suspect is in an abusive relationship. The first thing you can do to help is learn more about domestic violence. Society’s lack of understanding about the dynamics of domestic violence often is the greatest obstacle a battered woman faces in her efforts to end the violence in her life.

People often say “but I didn’t know.” We often accept her explanations of the bruises and frequent absences from work or gatherings. We often witness her partner exerting an unusual amount of control over her activities. We often ignore his public ridicule of her or join in the laughter at her expense. We do these things not because we don’t care but because we don’t know what to do or how to respond. We view domestic violence as a private matter and not the crime that it is.

But there are things we can do for her:

  • The first step is to talk to her in private. Let her know you are concerned for her. Keep him out of the conversation. Focus on her well being and safety.
  • Believe her. A battered woman needs validation that what she is experiencing is wrong.
  • Listen to her without judging or asking what she was doing to make him so angry.
  • Ask clarifying questions. If she says “things aren’t great at home,” ask what she means, how so.
  • Take the violence and abuse seriously. Most battered women minimize what is happening out of shame.
  • Focus on her strengths. Tell her she is strong. She is not crazy. Whatever skills, gifts and attributes she possesses you emphasize.
  • Let her know she doesn’t deserve to be treated in this manner. It is not a private family matter. It is abusive and she deserves better.
  • Call a domestic violence organization for local phone numbers of domestic violence organizations that you can give her in a safe manner.
  • If you witness or hear a battering incident call the police immediately.