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 hurt you.
- Tell them they don't deserve it. No one ever deserves to be hurt.
- 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.