Are you concerned that someone you care about is experiencing abuse? Maybe you’ve noticed some of these warning signs:
- Their partner puts them down in front of other people.
- They are constantly worried about making their partner angry.
- They make excuses for their partner’s behavior.
- Their partner is extremely jealous or possessive.
- They have unexplained marks or injuries.
- They’ve stopped spending time with friends and family.
- They are depressed or anxious, or you notice other changes in their personality.
It can be difficult to know what to do if you suspect someone you love is being abused. Your instinct may be to “save” them from the relationship, but it’s not that easy. People have many reasons for staying in abusive relationships, and leaving can be a very dangerous time for a survivor.
Abuse is about power and control. Empowering someone to make their own decisions in an abusive relationship can be one of the most important ways you can help. You can offer additional support in various ways:
ACKNOWLEDGE THEY ARE IN A VERY DIFFICULT AND SCARY SITUATION, BE SUPPORTIVE, AND LISTEN
Let them know the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and there is help and support out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe them and listen to them.
Respect your friend or family member’s decisions even if you don’t understand or agree with them. Survivors have many reasons for staying in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to make them feel guilty.
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 when it is over. They may need time to mourn the loss of the relationship.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO PARTICIPATE IN ACTIVITIES WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY OUTSIDE THE RELATIONSHIP
Support is critical. The more survivors feel supported by people who truly care for them, the easier it is for them to take necessary steps to get away from the abusive partner and stay safe. Remember, you can call the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center hotline at any time to find local support groups.
HELP THEM DEVELOP A SAFETY PLAN
A thorough safety plan can help a survivor move forward wherever they are in their relationship – whether they’re preparing to leave, choosing to stay, or have already left. Learn more about creating a safety plan to help your friend or loved one regain control of their situation.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO TALK TO PEOPLE WHO CAN PROVIDE HELP AND GUIDANCE
REMEMBER THAT YOU CANNOT “RESCUE” THEM
It is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, but ultimately they must make their own decisions about changing the situation.
If you need more information on what you can do, call for support – we can help.