Friends & Family
Friends and family members may be the first people to recognize that someone they care about is in an abusive relationship. The first step to helping them is to learn more about abuse. This includes assessing for safety risks. Are You Safe? Because every situation is unique and the safety risks vary, we recommend you speak with a trained JBWS helpline staff member or counselor before approaching a victim or the abusive partner.
When you are ready to talk to someone about the abuse, use this pneumonic device to guide you through your conversation.
Saying "I'm concerned about you" is a good way to open the conversation. It helps the person to let down their defenses and see that you are not judging or blaming them. Instead, you are just showing concern.
Share specific observations like, "I've noticed that you seem jittery around your partner," or "I've noticed that they don't want you to spend time with your friends anymore," or "I've noticed that they constantly call to check-up on you and that they put you down a lot." Help the person to see the possible pattern of controlling behavior.
No one deserves to be abused.
Whether or not they are ready to reveal the abuse in the relationship, you can provide them with basic information. You could begin by saying, "I recently read a little about abuse and I learned that many have experienced abuse in their relationships." You can describe abuse as a pattern of behavior used to gain control over another and can be expressed as emotional or physical abuse. Emphasize that the abuse is not provoked and responsibility for this inappropriate and unacceptable behavior lies with the abuser.
Let them know that you respect their need for privacy and confidentiality. The decision to stay with a partner or to seek help is theirs. Tell them that whatever they decides to do, you will respect the decision and be there to support them.
Don't judge the person, instead empathize with the complexity of feelings that you have in intimate relationships. Acknowledge the good parts of the relationship as well as the unhealthy behaviors. Share your knowledge of early warning signs of potential abuse.
"R" you safe?
Safety should be a critical concern in all cases of domestic abuse. If the person reveals a pattern of abuse or you've witnessed physical abuse in the relationship, be prepared to express your concerns about their safety. Let them know that what may start as emotional abuse can escalate to intimidation, threats and even physical abuse. Your local domestic abuse helpline workers can assist you with a specific safety planning.
Name the problem.
When the time is right, naming the problem as "a pattern of abuse" may help the victim to see why no matter what they try, the abuse continues. Naming the problem may help to reduce feelings of isolation and hopelessness and can help direct them to the most appropriate referrals.
Lastly, refer the victims to appropriate resources by giving them the phone number of the local domestic abuse programs for counseling, shelter, legal remedies and more.