OFFICE OF THE PROSECUTING ATTORNEY
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE...MY FRIEND, YOU CAN HELP
Friends of someone who is abused can become frustrated and
angry because they are seeing someone they care about get hurt. Here are some suggestions
on how to help your friend. But, remember, it is your friend's decision, you can only be a stepping
stone when they decide to "step."
- Tell them it's not their fault. You can never make someone else
- Tell them they don't deserve it. No one ever deserves to
- Tell them they are not crazy. A person who is
been abused often feels upset, depressed, confused, and scared.
These are normal feelings to have.
- Be available to talk whenever they need to. Tell them
they are not responsible for the abuse; they are not alone.
- Help them do what THEY want to do.
You can make things better, but you can also make things worse.
Don't urge them to do something they are not ready to do.
They will only feel more inadequate and unhappy if they cannot bring
themselves to carry-out your wishes.
- In general, on a day-to-day basis, treat your friend's abuser
with cordiality and civility. You may feel awkward around the abuser and be tempted to ignore
them or even show dislike for them. You may want to have a talk with them, criticizing the way
they are treating your friend and warning them to leave your friend alone. This could be
disastrous for your friend. Remember that abusers are jealous and possessive and try to isolate
their victims. Don't antagonize the abuser. If they sense your hostility, they will forbid the
victim to see you.
- Listen sensitively. Take your friend's problems seriously. Let them recount the horror stories to
you. Don't condone or justify the abuse.
- Tolerate your friend's expressions of anger. It is
appropriate and healthy for them to be angry. They need an outlet for this emotion that
has bottled up inside for so long.
- Encourage them to deal with the mixed-up feelings before
making any long-term plans. They will be thinking more clearly and act more rationally
after they have calmed down.
- Assist your friend in setting goals, goals that are specific,
realistic, action-oriented, and attainable. Even seemingly insignificant steps forward should
not be taken lightly. If they work up the courage to insist on attending church, for
example, it might seem quite a minor success. But, it is a giant accomplishment for a victim
who has never before insisted on anything. Keep in mind, however, that any step of
self-assertiveness could prove deadly. The abuser will be angry about the new independence.
No action should be undertaken without prior consideration of the risks.
- Be their sounding board.
Point out options. Help identify resources. Support them in the decisions they are making
about leaving or staying in the relationship.
- If they make a decision to
leave the abuser, be a friend and support them during the days and weeks when they are
trying to cope with loneliness, doubt, and responsibilities of single parenthood.
- Watch for printed materials on domestic violence and share it. Find out about the problem
so you understand the situation better. Pass on any literature - perhaps offering to keep
it at your home if there is danger of the abuser discovering it.
- Store important items at
your home - extra money, clothes, baby food, legal papers, etc. Help develop a safety plan
and an escape plan.
- Lend your friend money to get away or buy food and other necessities for
them and the children.
- Act as a chauffeur when they need transportation.
- Offer to accompany them to the doctor, lawyer, police department, court,
welfare, shelter, etc.
- Take a special interest in the children. Look after them in emergencies.
Invite them over to your house and get to know them. Show them by your own relationship how
different life can be from what they see at home. Victims have little energy to nurture
their children. Some are even guilty of abusing their little ones. If you see that your
friend is really having trouble handling the frustrations of parenthood, suggest a day-care
center, for the children's sake and your friends. Encourage them to talk about the effects
this is having on the children; it may help the victim leave in the future.
- If you are present during an assault, or if they run to your home with the abuser in hot pursuit, beware of
trying to reason with the abuser in that state. At that point, the batterer is unreachable
and could easily turn on you. Offer to call the police and serve as a witness when they arrive.
If you do feel compelled to intervene physically between them - to save a life,
perhaps - warn the abuser in no uncertain terms that if they harm you, you will
definitely press charges against them.
- Build up your friend's self-esteem. Remind them
of their own strengths and skills. Tell them how valuable they are. Show them you believe
they can change their life. This should be among your top priorities.
- Help locate a good
counselor and a temporary shelter. Refer them to a domestic violence program or
other helping agency.
- Be patient. Self-empowerment may take longer than you want.
Go at the victim's pace.
- Don't give up. Let them know that you will always
be there for them when they may need help or just need someone to talk to.