What to Say When You Think Someone is Being Abused
If you suspect a loved one is in an abusive relationship, talking with them about it can be tricky. The most important thing you can do is to help them identify their support and options for safety and/or leaving the relationship.
It's important to remember that you can't "rescue" them from an abusive relationship. Although it is hard to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person being hurt needs to be the one who decides to do something about it. It's important to support and help them find a way to safety.
Here are some easy ways to help start the conversation:
Offer support without judgment or criticism. There are many reasons why a victim may stay in abusive relationships. And, many reasons why she/he* may leave and return to the relationship many times. Let her/him know it's not their fault and that they are not alone. Respect their decisions, even when you don't agree. Do not criticize or make them feel guilty -she/he needs you to be helpful, not hurtful.
"It's not your fault he/she treats you that way." "I know this is difficult to discuss, but please know you can talk to me about anything." "You are not alone. You have people who care about you and I am here for you, no matter what. "You are not responsible for his/her behavior." "No matter what you did, you do not deserve this."
Don't be afraid to tell them that you're concerned for their safety. Help them recognize the abuse while acknowledging that she/he is in a very difficult and dangerous situation.
"I see what is going on with you and _______ and I want to help you be safe." "You don't deserve to be treated that way. Good spouses and partners don't say or do those kinds of things." "The way she/he treats you is wrong. People should never hit or threaten the ones they love." "I'm worried about your safety and am afraid you'll really get hurt next time." "Promise me that if you need to talk, you'll contact me."
Avoid confrontations. There are many reasons why individuals experiencing abuse don't reach out to family and friends. It's important to recognize if she/he is ready to talk about theirr experiences while offering support.
"I'm here to help you, even if you don't want to talk about it." "Remember, you're not alone - I am here for you when you're ready to talk about it."
Don't try to make any decisions for them because it implies that you think they are incapable of making good choices for themselves and it may deter the client from confiding in you in the future. Instead, focus on offering support and encouragement.
"I want to help. What can I do to support you?" "How can I help protect your safety?"
Encourage him/her to get help. Suggest ways they can get additional support. Help the client look into available resources, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline number (800-799-SAFE) or a local domestic violence agency with specially-trained advocates to help her out of the situation.
"Here is the number to our local domestic violence agency. They can help provide shelter, counseling or support groups.
You could also add: "They also offer services to help you understand the legal system, access community resources, relocate or get support for your children."
"Let's develop a safety plan."
If you are concerned about the safety of your loved one or friend, or to learn about services in your area, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224
*This article is not the intellectual property of Midwest Counselors. This article is posted in this blog as informational. Please visit the original post for more information.*