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

But 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 ill 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 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.

A choice they must make on their own.

It’s understandable to want to step in and take care of someone you love, 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 this person know that you are concerned for her* safety.

Tell her 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 she deserves a healthy, non-violent relationship

Acknowledge that she is in a very difficult and scary situation.

Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not her fault. Reassure her that she is not alone and that there is help and support out there.

Remember that you cannot “rescue” her.

Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person getting hurt has to be the one to decide that she want to do something about it. It’s important for you to support her and help her find a way to safety and peace in her own time.

Be supportive.

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

Be non-judgmental.

Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. She may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize her decisions or try to guilt her. She 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 her to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.

Help her to develop a safety plan.

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

If she ends the relationship, continue to be supportive of her.

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

Encourage her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.

Contact the Family Violence Prevention Services or other agency that provides counseling or support groups. Offer to go with her to talk to family and friends. If she has to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.