If you know that a family member is stuck in a domestic violence situation, you certainly want to do anything you can to help – but you might not know how. It can be hard to find the right thing to say at the right time in such a difficult situation. You know that you need to be supportive, but you also don’t want to come across as critical or judgmental. Despite the difficulty of this subject, it is not something which should ever be ignored. By doing what you can to help, you may be able to help your loved one get into a better, safer situation.
It’s All About Power
One of the most important things to understand about domestic violence is the transfer of power that can take place. The abuser is typically trying to gain control over the victim, and this attempt is often successful. Therefore, the victim of the violence is likely to feel as though he or she has no power, and no say in the future. To get out of the situation, it will be necessary for the victim to regain their feelings of importance and control.
With this in mind, you don’t want to go into the situation by telling your loved one what they should do. Even if you have their best interests in mind, telling them that they must immediately leave the situation is going to come off as controlling. You don’t want to be controlling – you want to be understanding and supportive. Ask the victim what they would like to do, and how you can help. Give them the power to take control of their future and a path forward just may become clear.
It is very likely that you have no experience in helping those who have been the victim of domestic violence. Rather than trying to improve the situation all on your own, contact a domestic violence counseling program in your area to speak about the abuse. Those who work in the program will be able to give you valuable advice on how to help without crossing any lines. Also, you can find out about what type of support is available for the victim if they choose to call for themselves. Importantly, such a program should also be able to help you with planning a safe way to get out of a relationship. Many domestic violence victims are afraid to leave because of what might happen next, so it is important to have a safety plan in place before a move is made.
Have a Conversation
At some point, it will be necessary to have that difficult first conversation about domestic violence. You are going to be nervous about this conversation, but that is okay. You know that you are doing what is best for the family member affected by the abuse, and you have a chance to help them improve their life dramatically. Be understanding, supportive, and listen more than you talk. Don’t accuse the victim of making any mistakes, and don’t talk too harshly about the abuser, either. This is a difficult time for all involved, but hopefully the first conversation will lead to progress in the right direction.