By Viktoria, Advocate |

You may have finished reading the story of M, a survivor of domestic violence struggling to deal with her stress. Your reaction is “I want to help!” However, you must be sensitive and aware of the best approach for helping and interacting with a survivor. The table below can give you some direction.

You suspect a friend is in an abusive relationship.

In this situation, it is difficult to help, but do not give up. Do not force help on a friend, but instead respond with these ideas if they approach you:

  1. Listen and do not judge.
  2. Give the victim key assurances: “You do not deserve this.” “This is not your fault.” “I believe you.”
  3. Give them the Helping Services Crisis Line phone number, 800-383-2988.
  4. Do not tell the victim what to do. Abusers often control their victims by preventing them from making decisions. Telling the victim what to do could sound controlling, like the abuser.
  5. Ask the victim where they would go if they decided to leave. Help them think about making a plan.
  6. If abuse is actively occurring, immediately call 9-1-1.

You do not personally know a survivor.

  1. You can be part of building community awareness and acceptance and connect possible victims to local resources.
  2. Create a safe space to begin discussion on domestic violence among your peers and connections.
  3. Know what resources are available for confidential services and safe housing.
  4. Voice your support for survivor services and resources to your local government.
  5. Participate in domestic violence awareness events.
  6. Increase your understanding of the dynamics of abuse by taking the Online Domestic Violence Awareness Training.

You may not feel confident interacting with a survivor, but which decision is better? They come to you for help or you suspect abuse is happening, and 1. You do or say nothing; the abuse continues. Or 2. Even though you feel uncomfortable or awkward, you show you care by voicing your concern. They may not respond, but do not take it personally; they may not be ready to talk. Or they may ask for help, and then you give it. Showing survivors they are supported and welcome to ask for judgment-free help will empower them to make decisions to keep themselves safe.

By accepting an individual and empowering them to take control of their life, a community can come together to advocate on its members’ behalf. Mere acceptance of an individual in an abusive relationship will not right wrongs that have been committed, but it does contribute to ending the cycle of violence.

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