How to Help a Friend Who Is Experiencing Abuse

If you believe your friend, family member, or someone you know may be experiencing abuse, but they have yet to confide in you, it is important to note that it can be difficult for a victim to come forward and ask for help.

Many survivors find it very difficult to speak up against their abuser and to share their story with someone due to fear or embarrassment. It is possible that they may get defensive and make excuses for their abuser, which is why it’s important to approach them in the right way.

Although it isn’t something many people want to acknowledge, it is necessary that people talk about it and understand what abuse looks like.

Some signs that someone you care about is experiencing abuse may include:

  • Their abuser is overly possessive and jealous
  • They often put the blame on the victim
  • They embarrass and belittle the victim
  • They overly criticize the victim
  • The abuser controls how she spends money
  • They decide what the victim eats or wears
  • They constantly compare her to others
  • They monitor her emails, texts, and who she sees

How can you help someone you care about if you see red flags?

  1. Communicate your concern without judgement. By sharing what you have witnessed from their abuser on the way they talk/treat the victim and explaining your concern without judgement, it helps them face the reality that it is not a healthy relationship. Speak to them with the intent of showing how much you care for them and that what they are experiencing should not be normalized. Let them know that you have picked up on the way they are being treated and that you are there to listen to them and help them.
  2. Actively listen to what they are going through and what trauma they may be enduring. Instead of telling them what they are experiencing and insisting they leave their abuser, listen to their story. By listening and letting them know that they are being heard, it enables them to be more open to sharing their experience. Be supportive and make sure that they know that what is happening is not okay.
  3. Show your support by letting them know you are there for them. Many survivors feel like they’re in this alone and that no one will understand or believe them. By encouraging them to seek help and reminding them of their worth, you are letting them know that it’s not too late to make a change in their life.
  4. Help build her confidence back. Remind them of the good decisions that they make and and that they can still have power and control in their lives, even if it feels like their abuser has stripped away their freedom or a part of themselves. Encourage them to participate in hobbies they love and include them in activities with you and maintain those healthy relationships.
  5. Develop a safety plan and encourage her to seek help from their local women’s shelter. The domestic violence hotline can help you take the proper steps to safety and help you navigate a plan to escape from the abuse.

Examples on what you can say to support them:

  • “I’m here for you whenever you need me or want to talk”
  • “You deserve to be treated with respect”
  • “I want you to be safe”
  • “I trust you to make the right decision for you”
  • “You are not alone”
  • “It’s not your fault”

What not to do:

  • Don’t push the person you care about into talking about things that make them uncomfortable.
  • Don’t pressure then or try to make decisions for them.
  • Do not question their decision as to why they haven’t told you sooner.

Important things to note:

Remember that you cannot save them. It is easy to want to get involved because you want the best for them. Ultimately, they are the ones who can make the decision whether to seek help and leave their abuser. However, you can continue to be supportive of them and help guide them to safety.

By trying to make decisions for them, it can make them further isolate themselves because it feels like you are trying to take the only power or control they have left in their lives.

If this seems too overwhelming, just remember to remind the person you care about that they are not alone in this and that you will support them and be there for them whenever they need it.

Remember that abuse does not always just affect the victim, it also affects those who care about them.

How we (NWAWS) can help:

Whether this abuse is verbal, physical, psychological, sexual, financial, or spiritual, the NWA Women’s shelter has the resources and the staff to help victims/survivors overcome and help them make decisions and take steps in the right direction away from the abuse.

Our organization offers services that allow victims/survivors to have their perspective heard and to seek different types of therapy that can help them escape from the restraint they may feel from their abuser.

We offer several different types of therapy to help those experiencing abuse that can assist them overcome trauma and to allow them to move forward in their lives.