How to Help a Friend Who is Experiencing Domestic Violence
There are many things you can do to support a friend who is in a relationship with someone who uses violent tactics to gain power and control. These are just a few. Feel free to call our crisis hotline at 800.681.8663 or 304.340.3549 if you need support.
Assure her that the abuse is NOT your friend's fault or her children’s fault. She did not cause the violence. No one deserves to be abused.
Educate yourself on the myths and facts about domestic violence. Gather information about local support programs like the YWCA for both you and your friend.
LISTEN to your friend and BELIEVE what she tells you. Letting her know you care about her and will listen if she wants to talk may be the best help you can offer.
Don’t underestimate the danger she is in. Domestic violence can result in serious physical injury or death. The most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence is leaving an abusive relationship.
Help her plan ahead to think through steps she can take when her partner is abusive. Make a list of people she can call and places she can go in an emergency, including the YWCA confidential shelter. You can reach out to our 24 Hour Crisis Line at (509) 326-CALL (2255) for more help with this.
If she is planning to leave, DO suggest that she put together and hide a suitcase of clothing, personal items, money, identification, and social securtiy cards, birth certificates, health insurance records, checkbooks, bank records, and other important documents for herself and her children.
Let her know that she is not alone. Domestic violence happens to women of all income and educational levels, racial and ethnic origins, religions, and ages.
Allow her to express her feelings—do not try to take them away or change them. It is common for women to have conflicting reactions to abuse such as love and fear, guilt and anger, hope and sadness. Let her know these conflicting feelings are normal.
Don’t assume you know what’s best for her. Let her know you’ll support her no matter what she decides. To be helpful, be patient and respect her decisions, even if you don’t agree with them.
Encourage her to make her own decisions. It is empowering to know that someone trusts your judgment. Help her think through different options, but allow her to evaluate each one herself and trust her to make the right choices for herself.
Take care of yourself. Helping a friend in an abusive relationship is stressful and can leave you feeling drained and helpless. You need to look after your own physical and emotional well-being. Seek support for yourself to help you with your feelings, fears, frustrations and reactions to the abuse.
YWCA Resolve Family Abuse Program
24-hour Domestic Violence Crisis Lines:
Charleston calling area: 304.340.3549
Administrative number: 304.340.3549
Boone County office: 304.369.4189
Clay County office: 304.587.7243
We also operate the YWCA Monitored Visitation & Exchange Center for parents and children. To schedule an appointment call: Monday - Friday: 304-610-9118 | Saturday - Sunday: 304-414-0016
What Can I Do to
Help My Friend?
How can I know for sure if she's being abused?
The only way to know for sure if someone is being abused is to ASK.
A common myth about battered women is that they don't want to talk about their victimization. While many try to hide the battering, they do so because they fear being blamed, not being believed, or being pressured to do something they're not ready or able to do. Directly asking your friend in private, without judgement, and even without expectation that they will trust you enough to disclose, relieves her of the burden of coming forward on her own, and can tell her a lot about your caring and willingness to help.
Five Helpful Things to Say:
I am afraid for your safety/life.
I am afraid for your children's safety/lives.
It will only get worse.
You deserve better.
I will be here for you if you want my support.
Safety Planning with Battered Women by Jill Davies, Eleanor Lyon, and Diane Monti-Catania
Think Re-Think: Woman to Woman Domestic Violence by Connie Burk of Northwest Network
To Be an Anchor in the Storm: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women by Susan Brewster
Trauma and Recovery
by Judith Herman