When someone we know and care about is impacted by domestic violence, it is hard to know how to help.

Friends and family are important in supporting people experiencing domestic violence so they feel empowered to leave.

Please contact Family Violence Prevention Services or the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to discuss your concerns and questions. 


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The person experiencing abuse should always be the decision maker about leaving a relationship or getting help. Stay connected, stay supportive, but don’t force anyone to make decisions before they are ready.

5 Things to say to a victim

  1. “I am afraid for your safety.”
  2. “I am afraid for the safety of your children.”
  3. “It will only get worse.”
  4. “I am here for you when you are ready for change.”
  5. “You don’t deserve to be abused.”

On average, it takes domestic violence survivors seven times to leave the relationship for good.

Believing and supporting them can be a major factor in helping them stay safe or helping them find empowerment to leave when they’re ready.

Sometimes friends and family members want to physically remove the survivor from the abusive partner because they won’t leave themselves.

We strongly discourage doing this because that action, like the abuse, encroaches on the survivor’s autonomy. Don't force anyone to make decisions before they are ready. Stay connected and supportive.

A choice they must make on their own.

It’s understandable to want to step in and take care of someone you care for, but it is important to remember that they are the only person who can decide what is right for them; this is a choice they must make on their own.

It’s important to have hope.

Don’t be afraid to let the person know that you are concerned for their safety.

Tell them you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help your friend recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship.

Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation.

Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there.

Remember that you cannot “rescue” them.

Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person experiencing abuse should always be the decision maker about leaving a relationship or getting help. It’s important for you to support and help them find a way to safety and peace in their own time.

Be supportive.

Listen to your friend or family member. Remember that it may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.

Be non-judgmental.

Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.

Take care of yourself.

Witnessing the pain of someone you care about can take its toll, and you may even experience vicarious trauma. Seek the help and support that you need, while still respecting your friend’s privacy and confidentiality.

Encourage the person to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.

Help them to develop a safety plan.

Contact a local domestic violence program for more information on how to safety plan with your friend.

If they end the relationship, continue to be supportive.

Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.

Family Violence Prevention Services