Domestic violence causes far more pain than the visible marks of bruises and scars. It is devastating to be abused by someone that you love and think loves you in return.
— Dianne Feinstein
Those who experience domestic violence often need and use the help of an outsider to leave the relationship, yet most of these outsiders never know how much they help. If you suspecte that your relative, friend, neighbor, or co-worker is emotionally or physically abused, and that you want to help, keep in mind two fundamental principles. First, give yourself and the person you care about some time to make changes. And second, remember that there is no single correct way to help. The important thing is that you try.
Five Things to Say When a Victim of Domestic Violence Says They Cannot Leave
- I am afraid for your safety.
- I am afraid for the safety of your children.
- It will only get worse.
- There is help available.
- You don’t deserve to be abused.
(Adapted from the AZ Police Office Standard and Training Board Workshop)
Why Would a Victim of Domestic Violence Be Reluctant or Hesitant?
- Fear of threats, harassment and retaliation by the defendant
- Victim is afraid that the defendant will be imprisoned and has no other means of financial support.
- Victim and defendant have reconciled and the defendant has promised to never assault the victim again.
- Guilt on the part of the victim for causing the defendant’s arrest.
- The victim may not understand the criminal process and mistrusts the system. Many victims are concerned that they might be on trial.
(Developed by the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, February 1998)
There are many ways that you can help a friend or family member who has been a victim of rape or sexual violence:
- Believe them.
- Be patient. Remember, it will take your loved one some time to deal with the crime and to heal.
- Be clear in reminding them that the rape was not their fault.
- Validate the survivor’s strengths.
- Help to empower your loved one. Rape and sexual violence are crimes that take away an individual’s power, it is important not to compound this experience by putting pressure on your loved one to do things that he or she is not ready to do yet.
- If you are dealing with an issue involving your child, create a safe place by talking directly to them.
- If you are the non-abusing parent in a case of incest, it is important to support your child and help them through this situation without blaming them. This is also true if you are not a parent but still an observer of incest.
- If your loved one is considering suicide, follow-up with them on a regular basis. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Available 24 hrs a day)
- Understand that your relationship with your loved one may change. Do not blame them for that change, but accept that it is a positive path toward healing.
- Help them to seek professional help if they need it.
- Do not sympathize with the abuser.
- Help to validate the damage that was caused by the abuse.
- Practice self-care – remember, helping a loved one is painful for you too, do not forget to care for yourself!