How to Support a Victim
When we see someone we care about being mistreated it can be hard to know what the right thing to do is. Our first thought is usually to try to "save" them. But we have to remember there are many reasons victims of domestic abuse do not leave. Domestic abuse is about power and control. The abuser uses many means to gain control over their partner such as financial, emotional, physical, sexual, and isolation. In many cases the most dangerous time for a victim is not when they are with their abusive partner, but when they leave. This is why many victims of domestic abuse fear leaving. On average it takes a victim 7 times to leave before they are able to leave for good.
The most important way you can help someone is by empowering them to regain their power and control and make their own decision. Often we do not know what happens behind closed doors although we may see red flags. One way of helping is to ensure they have a good safety plan in place. A domestic abuse advocate is a great resource for creating a good safety plan.
Other ways you can help and provide support:
Let them know the abuse was never their fault. Reassure them they are not alone and that help and support is out there.
Listen without judgement. This can be difficult especially if you don't understand why they don't just leave.
Encourage them to find new forms of support. Often the abuser has alienated them from their family and friends. Or family and friends don't believe this time they will really leave. Help them find new supports in the community such as churches, support groups, or other activities they enjoy and can form relationships with new like-minded people.
Encourage them to talk to people who can help them in the present and long-term. Advocates provide a variety of services including counseling, court and medical support, and have many resources to provide.
Remember you cannot "save" the person you care about in an abusive relationship. You can, however, support, empower, and listen to them.
For more resources or help in supporting someone you care about call Passages at 800-236-4325.