It is extremely difficult to know what to do when someone in your life experiences domestic violence. You obviously want to help in any way you can – but you don’t want to make the situation worse. The steps you take could help the individual get out of the situation, but only if you proceed with care and caution. We hope the tips listed below will help you make the right decisions.
While the urge to help immediately is strong, you need to make sure that your help is welcomed and wanted. Simply put, you should ask the survivor of domestic violence what you can do to help at the moment. You might think immediately calling the police is the right thing to do, but the survivor in this situation may know better. Just ask how you can help, and be open to their answer.
Asking how they would like you to help them is about safety, but it is also about giving them power. Unfortunately, domestic violence survivors often have their feelings of power and control stripped away by their abuser. By asking how you can help, you are giving them a moment where they are in control, and they can make the decision on how to move forward. This momentary empowerment will hopefully feel good, and it may open them up to further help.
Develop a Plan
Taking action in a domestic violence situation should always be about safety above all else. The abuser may have made threats in the past, or may currently be making threats, and those threats should be taken seriously and not discounted. Work on creating a plan that will account for as many different scenarios as possible so that everyone involved can remain safe. Remember, if you are involved in the situation, your own safety could potentially be compromised as well.
Help in a Considerate Manner
Going through an abusive relationship is an emotionally taxing experience, as there are a whole host of emotions to work through. If you are supporting a survivor who has recently exited an abusive relationship, remember that they probably don’t feel like celebrating. Sure, you will see the end of the relationship as a good thing, but the survivor had positive feelings for that person at one point in time. And, perhaps, they still have affection for them in some ways, even though the pattern of abuse made the relationship unsustainable. So, as you provide them care and support, remember to respect their feelings and allow them to work toward recovery in their own way.
There is nothing easy about dealing with domestic violence, no matter what role you happen to be playing in the situation. If you are trying to lend help to someone who is a domestic violence survivor, remember to respect their wishes at every turn. Give them the power to make decisions, make them feel valued and important, and always make safety your top priority.