Guide for Friends and Families
Leaving an abusive situation is difficult for many reasons.
Do not expect a friend or loved one who is being abused to leave immediately. It is important to keep in mind the survivor may leave their abuser several times before terminating the relationship. Survivors need support through the entire process, though loved ones may become frustrated and want them to get out of the situation, it is important to keep in mind that only they know what is best for themselves. They have been living in that situation and must determine the risk. It is often most dangerous for a survivor when they attempt to leave an abuser. They must plan for their safety carefully, and this process may take a great deal of time and several attempts for them to actually leave. It is important to be patient and to support the survivor in making decisions.
Survivors need friends who are willing to listen. It is important to keep an open mind and be nonjudgmental. The goal is not to get them to leave their abusers or to “x” the situation, but to provide support. It is important to let go of any expectations that there is a “quick x” to domestic violence because there is not. Understand that not doing anything may very well be the safest thing a victim can do at any given time. Victims who are abused are not abused because there is something wrong with them. Rather, they get trapped in relationships with their partner's’ use of violence and control.
What Can You Do To Help a Survivor?
- Approach your loved one at a time and place that is safe and confidential.
- Start by expressing concern (i.e., “I am concerned someone may be hurting you, and I am worried about your safety.”)
- Take the time to listen, and believe what your loved one says.
- Communicate that you care about your loved one’s safety, that they do not deserve to be hurt, and that the abuse is not their fault.
- Respect the victim’s choices.
- Be patient. Self-empowerment may take longer than you want. Go at the victim’s pace, not yours.
- Consider calling your local domestic violence Crisis Line yourself — not on behalf of your friend, but to learn more about the kinds of help available, to ask questions specific to your situation, and to learn how you can be an effective and supportive ally.
Why the Survivors Stays:
Emotional Reasons for Staying
- Belief that the abusive partner will change because of their remorse and promises to stop battering
- Fear the abuser will kill the victim if abuse is reported
- Lack of emotional support
- Guilt over the failure of the relationship
- Attachment to the partner
- Fear of making major life changes
- Feeling responsible for the abuse
- Feeling helpless, hopeless and trapped
- Belief that the victim is the only one who can help the abuser with their problems
- They love the batterer
Situational Reasons for Staying
- Economic dependence on the abuser
- Fear of physical harm to self or children
- Fear of emotional damage to the children over the loss of a parent, even if that parent is abusive
- Fear of losing custody of the children because the abuser threatens to take the children if victim tries to leave
- Lack of job skills
- Social isolation and lack of support because abuser is often the victim’s only support system
- Lack of information
- Belief that law enforcement will not take victim seriously
- Lack of alternative housing
- Cultural or religious constraints