There are many women across the world in abusive relationships. Abuse comes in many forms. It can be physical, emotional, mental or psychological abuse from their partners. You may have friends, family members, workmates or strangers you have noticed are victims of intimate partner violence and want to help them but you don’t know how.
Abuse can be a very sensitive subject to bring up and talk about, but at the same time, something must be done because women lose their lives to abuse every day. According to a United Nations report, 27% of women between 15-49 who have been in relationships have experienced some form of physical or sexual abuse.
Today we share a few ways you can help someone in abusive relationship.
How to help someone in an abusive relationship
Victims of domestic violence and abuse need to have a safe space to share what they are experiencing. They need a space that will encourage them to open up and you can do this by listening. Sounds pretty simple but it makes such a huge difference. Many victims do not speak up because they fear that they won’t be believed or that their experiences and feelings will be dismissed.
Don’t interrupt them, or compare situations, just offer a listening ear. Let them know that they can share only what they feel comfortable sharing and don’t force them to talk about what they do not want to talk about as this can make them pull back and be reluctant to talk to someone.
- Do not judge or criticize
No one likes to feel judged. Someone that is being abused already has feelings of shame, guilt, and loneliness last thing they need is someone judging them. Even when they make choices that you do not agree with it is important that they feel like you are not judging them.
I know it might be difficult to understand why they continue to stay or go back, but do not make them feel like there is something wrong with them.
- Do not blame
No one deserves to be abused so do not blame the victim for what they are experiencing. Their partner probably already justifies their behavior by blaming it on something the victim did. You are supposed to remind them that what is happening to them is not right no matter the circumstances. Do not make excuses for the abuser.
They do not need to carry around the abusers’ guilt and shame. Let them know that anyone can be a victim of abuse and it’s not their fault for picking someone abusive because in most cases abusers are loving and caring to their victims.
- Be supportive
Victims of abuse need to have control over their own lives. They have probably lost control of many aspects of their lives to their abusers so do not create a similar scenario. They need to feel supported. You can suggest solutions but do not make decisions for them or force them to do what they do not want to do.
You can make different offers to help such as a place to stay when they decide to leave, come up with a safe escape plan, give them contact info of a GBV shelter where they can go to be safe, or even a therapist’s number but give them room to decide. Let them know you will be there regardless of the choice they make.
- Be honest
Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns but do this gently and kindly. This can be a difficult conversation but you must be honest while being gentle. Do not be aggressive and give ultimatums as this will most likely push them away.
Point out things you have noticed they are experiencing and ask how those things make them feel. If they didn’t know that certain things are also part of abuse let them know. They need to know that you are someone that will be there for them but always tell them what they need to hear.
- Build them up
Victims of abuse have usually been broken down emotionally and mentally by their partners and now have a low sense of self-worth. They probably think they are nothing without their partner and that no one would want to be around them. Remind them of who they are and of all the amazing things they are capable of doing on their own.
Compliment them, make them smile, introduce them to new hobbies, invite them to hang out because usually victims have been isolated by their abusers. Help them build a sense of community and a life away from their abuser as this can help them feel supported and encourage them to leave the relationship knowing they will be just fine after.
- Check-in on them
Send a text message, make a phone call, ask them how their day was. Many victims of abuse feel isolated so reaching out to them reminds them that they do have people that care about them, love them, and want to know that they are okay. This also helps them in case they ever want to leave or are in danger. They will know who to reach out to.
- Make research
You wanting to help is very important but knowing how to help and be there for the victim is even better. Educate yourself on the different types of abuse and what victims need and understand the dynamics of abuse in a relationship.
This can help you understand why they keep going back or keep forgiving their abuser that way you can be more empathetic. Gather information on the best solutions for the person you are trying to help and figure out a way you can help them without putting them in any more danger than they already are or escalating the situation.
- Take care of yourself
Being there for someone going through abuse can be emotionally, mentally, physically exhausting, and overwhelming. You are no good to the victim if you are not taking care of yourself. Check-in with yourself and see how you are doing.
If you feel you no longer have the capacity to be there emotionally, mentally, or physically communicate and find the victim another person like a therapist who can offer them help or come up with another solution that can help the victim without sacrificing your mental health.
Domestic violence can be emotional, physical, and mental and doesn’t look the same for everyone. Victims need to know that they have love and support around them despite the decisions they make. Remember it takes a woman an average of 7 attempts to leave an abusive relationship so remember to be empathetic and patient when relating with victims of abuse.