a friend, family member of someone who is being abused, or if we suspect
a member of our ecclesia is suffering abuse, we often feel unsure of what
is happening and helpless to change the situation. Sometimes, because
we are unsure how to respond, we don't, even though we would like to help
care for our Brother or Sister.
are a few guidelines and suggestions for helping in a Domestic Abuse situation
without taking over and further denying the victim the ability and right
to chose what is best for him or her.
How can I know for sure if someone is being abused?
Accept the fact that you will probably have to ask
to be certain. Many people think that abuse victims do not want to talk
about their home-life or situation. Many victims do make efforts to hide
the abuse. They often do so because they fear embarrassment, their partner
finding out, being blamed, not being believed, or being pressured to do
something they're not ready or able to do. Ask the person privately.
Understand that an abuse victim may not open up immediately. Don't be
judgmental or pressuring - this relieves the burden of having to speak
out and often results in the victim being more willing to disclose information,
it also demonstrates your concern and willingness to help.
Keep it simple. If there are specific observations that are the source
of your concern, you might approach the conversation by opening with,
"I noticed 'a, b and c' and I'm concerned about you. Is there something
I can do to help?" Or, "It seems like you're stressed out and
unhappy. If you want to talk about it now or another time, I'll keep it
confidential." Understand that a victim may not open up when first
approached with an offer to help, but they do remember you offered.
Open the door, let them know you are receptive and be prepared that you
may have to wait.
People are sometimes hesitant to approach a friend or loved one about
their concern because they feel that it is "none of their business",
or that their help will not be wanted. But the notion that "what
happens behind closed doors is off limits" often allows isolation
from help and support for many victims. Very little is lost if your offer
to help is refused, but many victims only need someone to reach out and
offer support to begin moving toward making a change in their lives.
If you ask, be prepared to respond supportively
There are many things you can do to prepare yourself to offer supportive
and empowering assistance to an abuse victim.
Learn all you can about domestic violence - Review the material
on this website and the other links offered here, talk to a domestic violence
advocate, read or participate in posts to message boards on domestic violence
Initiate a conversation in private and make sure you have enough
time for the conversation if the victim decides to open up.
Let go of any expectations you have that there is a "quick
fix" to domestic violence or to the obstacles a victim faces. You
must realize that staying in the relationship may be the safest option
the victim has until they can figure out another plan. This does not mean
that staying in the relationship is "OK", but it does mean that
it takes time and planning for a victim to come to grips with the problem
and figure out what to do or where to go.
Challenge and change any inaccurate attitudes and beliefs that you
may have about abuse victims and battering. A person does not
become an abuse victim because there is something wrong with them. In
reality, they become trapped in relationships by their partner's use of
violence and coercion. The better able you are to recognize and build
on the resilience, strength, resourcefulness and decision-making abilities
of the victim, the more you will able be to help them.
supportive and help
To help an abuse victim, you must understand the affects that living with
abuse has on their self-esteem, sense of self-worth and belief in their
own ability. A victim of domestic violence is not simply a physical captive
- they are actually an emotional and mental captive as well. Support involves
helping to rebuild or reinforce the victim's belief in themself and their
Believe the person and tell them you do. Remember that abusers
most often behave differently in public than they do in private. So, even
if you know the partner, you may never see them behave the way they treat
the victim privately.
Listen to their comments. If you actively listen, ask clarifying
questions, and avoid making judgments and giving advice, you will most
likely learn directly from them what it is they need.
Build on the victim's strengths. Based on the information they
give you and your own observations, actively identify the ways in which
they have developed coping strategies, solved problems, and exhibited
courage and determination, even if their efforts have not been completely
successful. Help them to build on these strengths.
Support their decisions. Remember that there are risks attached
to every decision an abuse victim makes. If you truly want to be helpful,
be patient and respectful of a person's decisions, even if you don't agree
Validate their feelings. It is common for victims to have conflicting
feelings - love and fear, guilt and anger, hope and despair. Let them
know that their feelings are normal and reasonable.
Avoid victim-blaming. Tell the victim that the abuse is not their
fault. Reinforce that the abuse is the partner's problem and responsibility,
but refrain from "bad-mouthing" the partner. Focus on the partner's
negative behavior in your comments and not on your negative opinion of
the partner's personality.
Take their fears seriously. If you are concerned about their safety,
express your concern without judgment by simply saying, "The situation
sounds dangerous and I'm concerned about your safety."
Offer help. As appropriate, offer specific forms of help and information
- these can include recommendations for social services, legal referrals,
support groups, etc. If you are asked to do something you're willing and
able to do, do it. If you can't or don't want to, say so and help identify
other ways to have that need met. Then look for other ways that you can
Be an active, creative partner in a victim's safety planning effort.
The key to safety planning is taking a problem, considering the full range
of available options, evaluating the risks and benefits of different options,
and identifying ways to reduce the risks. Offer ideas, resources and information.
was provided in part courtesy of Rhiannon3.