Help for Family and Friends
How Can You Help a Family Member or Friend?
Acknowledge they are in a very difficult and scary situation.
Be supportive and listen. Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that help is out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.
Be non-judgmental. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.
If they end the relationship, continue to be supportive of them.
Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may feel sad or lonely when it's over. As they mourn the loss of the relationship, they will need your support.
Encourage them to do things with other friends and family.
Support is critical. Find activities that are therapeutic for your friend or family member, and do them together. The more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be to stay away from their abusive partner. Our advocates can help you brainstorm ideas if needed.
Help them develop a safety plan.
Check out our information on creating a safety plan. Whether they’re choosing to stay, preparing to leave, or have already left, these plans can help.
Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.
Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Call us at 1.800.770.1650 to get a referral to one of these programs near you. Offer to go with them. If they have to go to the police, court, or lawyer’s office, offer to go along for moral support.
Remember that you cannot “rescue” them.
Though it is difficult to see someone you care about hurting, ultimately they have to make the decisions about what they want to do. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to safety and peace.
Helping Your Teen
If you want to help your teen, you need to make them feel comfortable. Be available where they are most at ease. Give them your full attention. Create space for them to talk about anything on their mind. And try your best to accept it all without reacting.
Some important points to remember when helping your teen are:
Listen and be supportive.
Even when you don’t understand or agree with their decisions, don’t judge. It can make them feel worse or stop talking to you altogether.
Don’t post information about them on social media.
Never use sites like Facebook to reveal their location or where they hang out. It’s possible their partner will use your post to find them. Brush up on your knowledge of digital safety.
Allow them to make up their own mind.
If your teen has been in an abusive relationship, they have likely been controlled and manipulated. They need to have the freedom to make choices.
Avoid blaming or belittling comments.
Abusive partners put down their victims often, so your loved one’s may already have low self-esteem. Encourage, validate, and support your teen in every way you can.
Don’t prevent them from seeing their abusive partner.
This could be the most difficult thing for you. You want to prevent future pain, but by demanding they end the relationship, you could risk your own relationship with your teen. They might feel they need to keep secrets from you, or as if decision-making is being taken away from them. Leaving an unhealthy or abusive relationship may be more difficult and dangerous than you think. Instead of making demands, talk about strategies and safety plans.
Don't give up.
Even though helping can be frustrating, keep trying. Unconditional love will eventually speak louder than any demands you could make.