Domestic abuse is many people’s worst fear. But how do you help a loved one who is being abused? You might not live with them or see them often, but there are still many ways you can support them.
Listen to Them
Often, survivors of domestic violence go unheard. They may subtly hint that they are being abused, or that their relationship is impacting them negatively. It is never right to assume one way or another, but you can listen and ask the right questions. Directly asking “Are you being abused?” may not solicit an accurate response, so be careful with your wording. Avoid accusations, and instead focus on your loved one.
Give Guidance if Asked
This is a difficult step, because many victims of abuse will not admit they are being abused. However, if a friend or family member asks you for advice, offer them words of encouragement and let them know that they deserve to be treated respectfully. Again, focus less on accusing the abuser, as this may push your loved one away. Also, allow the victim to make their own decisions. Abusers often control their victims, so empowering them will give them hope.
Offer a Place to Stay
This may not be feasible for everyone, but if you have space for your loved one, offer to let them stay with you until they get back on their feet. Many victims suffer from financial abuse, where the abuser controls all of their money. They may not have a way to leave on their own, so offering a helping hand is a great way to show your support.
There are hundreds of resources for victims of domestic abuse, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Make sure your loved one is aware of the resources available to them. Also suggest going to therapy, and offer to help find a therapist that specializes in domestic abuse. Your loved one may not be ready to talk about their trauma, so respect their decision either way. They may also be more comfortable if you accompany them to their first few sessions, and this is a suggestion you may also make.
Education about domestic violence is the best way to empathize with your loved one. There are plenty of resources about why victims stay with abusers and many other important topics. Reading current research from psychological professionals and stories from survivors can help broaden your knowledge. Ultimately, it is your responsibility to educate yourself about domestic abuse, not your loved one’s.
This is simple. Show your love and support in as many ways as you can. Do what makes your loved one comfortable. If you’ve known them for years, you likely know some of their favorite things – the movies, foods, and activities that make them feel at home. You don’t have to spend every penny on them, but the little things can add up. Let your loved one know how much they mean to you.
If you suspect a loved one is being abused, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline online or by phone at 1-800-799-7233.
Isabell Agumbah is a strong advocate against domestic violence. To find out more about domestic abuse, visit her website.