To Victims of Domestic Violence

They're trapped and you want to help.

When someone is dealing with domestic violence or intimate partner violence, especially a loved one, you would want to do whatever you can to protect them and to prevent any more harm from coming to them.  But you may not know what is the best thing to do nor what risks may come to you as a result of helping.

This site aims to help you recognize the warning signs, know the risks with getting involved, give you the tools to try to help and also know what to avoid. I also aim to give you the resources to make sure that your loved ones who are struggling know that you are an ally to them and know that they are able to come to you for help.

What is Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence?

Domestic Violence or intimate partner violence is a form of abuse caused by someone within the home. It can include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. As a result, not all of these can be visibly seen by others. However, all are terrifying ordeals for the victims and a forceful control caused by the abusive partner. Domestic Violence may also not end when the relationship ends. It can be followed with other forms of abuse, harassment, or stalking.

What are the Warning Signs?

If You Are Unsure of Whether Domestic Abuse is Occuring, Look for the Following Signs:

  • Repeated physical injuries.
  • Physical cues showing that they are afraid of their partner
  • If they go through great lengths to keep their partner happy, such as canceling plans with suspicious excuses
  • If they receive many texts or calls from their partner checking on them every moment they are apart.
  • Their partner puts them down in front of others.
  • They make excuses for their partners behavior.
  • They are constantly afraid of making their partner angry.
  • They have stopped spending time with friends and family.
  • They have experienced changes in their personality or have developed more anxiety or depression.

Recognize How Helping Will Affect You

With helping anyone, especially someone in a dangerous situation, recognize and decide whether you would like to help before involving yourself in the situation.

Once you start helping them, it is important for you to do your best to stay with them throughout the situation. Their abuser may isolate them or they may begin to isolate themselves as a result of the trauma. This is why it is important for you to decide beforehand whether or not you want to help.

It can be harmful for you to help initially, and then to leave them. It may reduce the chances of them reaching out to anyone else for help. However, if the situation becomes to dangerous for you, you do need to take care of your safety as well.

With that said, it is important to recognize that helping someone dealing with intimate partner violence may be dangerous both for them and for you. The abuser may target you in retaliation or force the victim to target you. Additionally, if they perceive you as a threat to their relationship, they may isolate the victim from you in order to remove your involvement and prevent you from helping. You may also have to recognize that the victim is not ready to take action or is too scared and you should not force them. It can be frustrating and cause emotional distress for you as well as you do not want them to be in this dangerous.

What Should You Keep in Mind as You Help Them?

Here are some of the things to remember as you try to help them.

Remain Nonjudgemental. Often victims already feel fear and shame while they are in that situation. Remaining free of judgement allows them to be able to talk to you about what is going on and not feel added shame or guilt. There are many reasons for someone to stay within that relationship. If you make them feel ashamed, they will likely feel isolated or rejected by you.

Survivors Tend to Know Best About Their Safety.  This may not make sense at first, however it is applicable. Your instinct may be that they just need to leave or they need to report. However, due to the abuse they have endured, they recognize some of the things that set their partner off or will stop them afterwards. Some things in which you may feel are “sure-fixes” may not actually solve the situation as they may have already tried it.

Use “I” statements instead of “You” statements.  Starting sentences with “I” rather than “You” helps avoid putting guilt, shame, or accusations on the victim. Mention things you have noticed. “I noticed your partner has been calling you a lot, is everything okay?” This evokes more concern than accusation. “You haven’t been spending a lot of time with your friends lately.” This statement feels more accusatory toward the victim rather than concerned and caring for their safety.

Be There to Help.  You unfortunately cannot force them to take any action, but be there to help when they need it and to relieve some stress. Volunteer to take care of any children involved or drive them somewhere or if they decide to report, go with them. Being simply supportive with any path they take can remove some of the isolation of the abuse.

How Can You Help?

Here are some things you can do in order to help individuals facing intimate partner violence.

What Should You Avoid Doing?

Some things may push the victim further from you or put them in more danger.

What Can You Do to Be Approachable?

Often, you may not know abuse is occurring. Here are some things you can do to make sure others know they can come to you if they are in that situation.