When someone you care about is being abused, it hurts you too. It is hard to know what to do and say.
Some people may suspect that abuse is happening in a friend or family member’s relationship, but do not know what to look for. Others are fearful of getting involved because they do not know what to do if the person discloses abuse in their relationship.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
- Is the person reluctant to talk about why they are sad, anxious or depressed?
- Is (s)he drinking more or taking pills to calm their nerves?
- Have you seen physical injuries?
- Does (s)he try to avoid you when you meet on the street? Does (s)he try to cut your time together short?
- Does (s)he make excuses at the last minute why (s)he cannot visit you? Or, has (s)he stopped seeing you completely?
If you have answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, you have reason to be concerned. The only way to know for sure is to ask the person if (s)he is being or has been abused by their partner – emotionally, physically and/or verbally.
REMEMBER: If someone is being abused by their partner, (s)he may feel embarrassed, ashamed and all alone. By asking questions, you help break the silence. This may be the first step towards ending the abuse.
SAFETY IS THE FIRST PRIORITY:
If (s)he has been physically abused:
- Offer to accompany her/him to the doctor’s office.
- Ask if (s)he wishes to report the assault to the City Police or RCMP; if so, offer to accompany her/him or arrange for an escort through a local outreach program.
- Find out if the children have been hurt, if so, they too should receive medical attention. Social Services and/or the police must also be notified.
- Help her/him to find a safe place to stay. Refer to the Abuse Help Lines pages, found on this website or at the front of your Direct West phone book for the phone number of the closest shelter, or click here to find a shelter in your community.
BE SUPPORTIVE AND WILLING TO LISTEN:
- Let her/him know that you believe what (s)he has told you – chances are the situation is worse than (s)he is letting on. Abuse rarely occurs only once.
- Encourage, but do not pressure, her/him to talk about the violence. Allow her/him to say as much or as little as (s)he wants.
- Offer to accompany her/him to the police station, local shelter/outreach program, or any other place (s)he is reluctant to go. Your presence will help her/him to be strong and will show in ways that words can never do, that (s)he is not alone.
- No matter how tempting it is to bad-mouth their partner, stop yourself. Most people love their partners and want the abuse to stop, but want the relationship to continue.
REMEMBER: You may be the only person (s)he can trust. Be attentive, non-judgmental and believe what (s)he says. Tell them you care and show you are willing to help.
ALLOW THE PERSON TO MAKE HER/HIS OWN DECISIONS:
A person who has been abused may come to believe that they have no control in their life and no ability to make decisions. To help the person feel more confident and regain control:
- Let her/him know that there are no simple solutions but that change is possible. The first step is to look after their safety.
- Point out different options available and help her/him evaluate each one.
- Allow them to decide which option is best. Even if you strongly disagree, remember that it’s her/his life, not yours.
- Let the person know that you will stand by them no matter what they decide.
REMEMBER: Don’t give up on her/him just because the decisions (s)he makes are different from the ones you might make. It does not mean (s)he does not want or need your support.
INCREASE YOUR KNOWLEDGE:
- Find out all you can about partner abuse.
- Make a list of phone numbers of agencies and individuals who can offer services.
REMEMBER: The better informed you are, the better you will be able to help.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF:
Helping a friend who is in an abusive relationship is often stressful and can be dangerous. You need to look after your own physical and emotional well-being.
- Never confront the abuser. That could make things worse.
- Talk with a professional who works in the area of violence and abuse about your feelings, fears, frustrations and reactions to the abuse. Counsellors often assist individuals whose friends and family members are being abused. You can do this without identifying the person you care about.
REMEMBER: There are no simple, easy solutions. If you know someone who is hurting, don’t ignore the abuse – or the person.