Many people are emotionally, physically, or sexually abused by their intimate partners each year. Violence and abuse in relationships usually continues and often gets worse over time if no action is taken to stop it. This is never the victims fault, but is often due to the abusive person using isolation and brainwashing tactics. You can help your friend by being honest about your concerns through providing emotional support, and by educating them about behaviors and resources for help. The following are supportive factors to use:
Be an active listener and do not judge. Tell your friend that you care about their well-being and are willing to listen. Let your friend talk about the situation on their terms; do not force the issue. Never blame your friend for what is happening or minimize any threatening behaviors that they feel their abusive partner is doing to them. Focus on supporting your friend’s right to make their own decisions. You can give positive advice based on safety but avoid telling them what to do even if they are seeking that assistance. It takes the average person seven times to leave an abuser for good. Remember that you are providing small steps to that person by not judging and assisting them when they need it. It is fine to follow up with them on a regular basis to make sure that they are safe and to tell them that you are still here to help.
Stay educated about abuse. Find out all the facts you can about dating violence. Contact the Office for Sexual Violence Response and Healthy Relationship Promotion at 515-271-4141 on campus that addresses sexual and dating violence, or contact the local program, Domestic Violence Services at 515-243-6147, that assist victims of domestic violence and stalking. These service providers can assist a secondary victim/bystander in coping and can provide resources and tips to assist friends.
If your friend decides to end the relationship, help them by making a plan to be safe. Encourage them to seek community service providers or campus support in creating a safety plan and obtaining legal support if they wish. Victims of dating violence may face greater risks when they try to end the abusive relationship then if they stay. Often the abuser feels they have lost the control they acquired in the relationship and can become very dangerous and/or volatile. Assess this possibility of danger with your friend and encourage them to seek legal remedies such as a protective order or a campus-based no trespass order to deter further incidences.
Focus on your friends strengths. Your friend has probably continually been told by the abusive partner that they are worthless. Sometimes people internalize this and start to believe what the abuser says about their personality. It is vital that you provide encouraging words and focus on building up their self-esteem through examining strengths and skills they possess. Emphasize that they deserves a life that is free from violence.
Believe what the survivor says,
“I believe you.”
“I want you to know I validate your experience.”
“I am so sorry that this happened to you.”
Affirm it is good that they are talking about what happened,
“I am honored that you decided to express your experience to me.”
“I think you are a very courageous person and want to thank you for sharing this with me.”
Support by reminding the survivor that what happened was not their fault,
“The only person who could have prevented this from happening was the person who did this to you.”
“You did not deserve this.”
“No one deserves this.”
“This was not your fault.”
Empower by helping to educate the survivor on resources available,
“I want to support you by encouraging you to reach out to a person that can provide more help than I can.”
“You have the right to get services if you want them.”
Refer the survivor to additional support and/or help to find additional support,
“There are community resources where you can get free, confidential assistance.”
“I can offer to help get you connected to any of the community resources if you need me to.”