When someone you care about is experiencing abuse it can be hard to know what to do. Have you noticed warning signs, such as:
There are many more signs that your loved one may be experiencing abuse. You may feel that it's your job to save them. But it isn't that easy, there are many reasons a victim stays in an abusive relationship. And leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim. Abuse is about power and control. One of the most important things you can do for your loved one is to help empower them to make their own decisions.
For advice on how to develop a safety plan please consult an advocate. In the mean time here are a few suggestions: set up a code word with a trusted friend or family member that signals you need help, during a violent incident avoid rooms with weapons, practice how to escape the house (include children if you have them), try to hide a "go bag" that includes an extra set of keys, cash, debit card, and possibly an extra set of clothes for yourself and children. For a more complete list visit visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline Safety Planning.
Acknowledge that they are in a scary and difficult situation. Let them know that it isn't their fault, no one deserves abuse. Your loved one may have a hard time talking about the abuse. What they need most is someone who will believe in them and support them. Let them know that you will be there to help when they need it. But don't try to force them into leaving.
There are advocates who are trained to help with domestic and sexual violence. Encourage your loved one to reach out and talk to your local domestic violence agency. We can provide guidance and support. WDVS can provide information on community resources, counseling and support group.
Continue to be supportive even if they leave the relationship. It's a very confusing time for your friend. They may still love and miss their partner. And they will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship. The more supported they feel the easier it will be to take the steps to stay away from their abuser.
No one can swoop in and rescue your friend. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately they are the ones who need to decide what they want to do. It's important to support them no matter what they decide. Listen without judgement. Be there for them when they need you. You may find yourself getting frustrated when your friend isn't doing what you think is best - don't give up. More than anything they need to know that they can trust you and that you will be there for them. Practice self care when helping a friend. And talking with an advocate or counselor will help you too.