October has been designated as national domestic violence awareness month. National domestic violence awareness month is fast approaching. With that said, in this post we will discuss, “How can you help battered women escape an abusive relationship?”. There are several ways that you can help a person in an abusive relationship. First, you must be a patient and non-judgmental listener. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions regarding how to handle their relationship. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. Secondly, you can encourage him or her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Assist your friend in locating a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling and/or shelter. If the person elects to go to the police, court or a lawyer, you can offer to accompany them for moral support. It is important to be mindful that you cannot rescue the person being abused. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about being hurt only the abused person can decide when to take the requisite steps to secure a life free from the violence and turmoil which occurs in an abusive relationship.
It is important when speaking to a victim of domestic violence that you be an attentive listener. What does that mean in this context:
- Ask open-ended questions
- Beware of body language
- let the survivor guide you
- don’t show shock so they don’t feel the weight of your reactions
- the victim will feel a need to protect you if you react strongly
- show you are able to handle the abuse history that the victim is sharing with you through a healthy detachment
Abuse survivors will try to take care of you and your emotions.
- Your reaction can take the focus off them.
- Let them know you hear them.
- Don’t make assumptions about what that was like for them.
- Compliments are often not well-accepted by survivors.
- Compliments will probably get a negative response
- Survivors don’t have sense of self, so it is uncomfortable to hear compliments because it is not how they have seen themselves.
- Survivors constantly monitor others to see if this is a safe emotional space and
person to talk to.
- Children show symptoms of what is going on in the home (they are the red blinking light letting us know there is abuse in their home).
Messages that are important for victims to receive: You are NOT alone. I believe you. It’s not your fault. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Counselors there will listen, and can help you.
Messages that discourage victims of domestic violence from sharing their story or seeking additional health from getting free from an abusive relationship:
- Did you do anything to provoke the abuse?
- Why don’t you just leave?
- You can’t blame others for your problems.
- All of us have had bad things happen to us.
- Why can’t you just forget about it? You need to move on with your life.
The pervasive problem of domestic violence takes everyone to make it stop. If you suspect that someone you know is being abused, keep in mind that expressing your concern for their health and well-being will let the person know that you care and may even save her or his life.
Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art.