Seventy five percent of people report knowing at least one person who has experienced domestic violence. How you talk with a friend or acquaintance in an abusive relationship can make a big difference. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know what to say or how to say it, especially if you haven’t dealt with this issue before. Below are some guidelines you can use when having supportive conversations with individuals experiencing IPV.
When supporting someone who is experiencing abuse:
- Allow them to tell their story without judgment
- Believe them – too often, people disbelieve or question those who disclose their experience with abuse
- Be sensitive to their feelings – individuals in abusive relationships may be experiencing a variety of complex emotions, including love for their abusive partner, a hatred of the violence that partner inflicts, and fear that their partner may retaliate or hurt them in some way if they disclose the abuse.
- Inform them of available resources, including Catalyst. A complete list of services that Catalyst provides can be found under "Programs & Services".
- Allow them to make their own decisions. Nobody understands a relationship better than the person in that relationship. When we care about someone who’s being hurt, it’s tempting to try and take control by telling the person what they should do and where they should go. Instead, we want to empower individuals experiencing abuse to make the safest decisions possible in their relationship – regardless if it’s the choice that you think you would make.
- Be patient. The person in the relationship gets to determine the pace at which they discuss the abuse they’re experiencing and when to take action.
- Stay present in their lives. Oftentimes, individuals in abusive relationships are isolated from their friends and family, which makes it harder to reach out for support if needed.
- Remind them that no matter what, you are here for them if they need someone to talk to.
Offer supportive messages:
- “It is not your fault”
- “I am scared for you and/or for your children”
- “You are not alone in figuring this out”
- “Domestic violence usually gets worse over time, it rarely ever gets better”
- “I am here for you when you are ready to talk”
- “You don’t deserve this”
Good questions to ask:
- “How does it make you feel when ____?”
- “What would you like to do?”
- “What are you ready to do?”
- “What do you think will happen if you stay?
- “What do you think will happen if you leave?”
- “Would you like to create a safety plan?”
Supporting someone who’s experiencing abuse in a relationship can be difficult. If you would like additional help supporting someone experiencing abuse, please call our 24-hour hotline at 800-895-8476 or consult the following resources:
- “What Do I Say”
- The Northwest Network’s Support Planning Checklist
- Help a Friend from Love Is Respect