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Being a friend or relative to someone who is in an abusive relationship is frustrating. You care about their safety and welfare and yet you are seemingly helpless to do anything about it. Your friendship is an important lifeline for them and you are offering an enormous amount of help when you care, listen in a non-judgmental way and support the healthy, positive aspects of their life.

You are not helpless

Here are some ideas about how you can help your friend:

  • Find out as much as you can about Domestic Violence. Call [Monadnock Center for Violence Prevention link to site] at 603-352-3782. Educating yourself is always a good thing.

  • Bring up the subject. Don't be afraid to let your friend know you're
    concerned. Let them know you can see what is happening and that they are not alone. Be sure that you talk with them in an environment which is safe for your friend. For example, do not discuss your concerns in front of their abuser. Respect your friend's boundaries and confidences.

  • They are not to blame.

  • Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation. ` Listen to your friend. Encourage them to express their feelings:
    • anger
    • frustration
    • hurt
    • humiliation

  • The abuser, not the victim, is responsible.

  • Don't accept your friend's denial. Let them know that you are concerned for their safety. Don't push the issue - you want to keep your relationship door open. Your friend needs to realize you will still be there as a safe and supportive person in their life.

  • Resist temptations to call the abuser names or put them down personally. Focus on the behaviors, not the person. If your friend decides to reconcile or stay in the relationship and your have expressed disgust toward the abuser instead of toward his or her behavior, then your friend will be less likely to seek your support should they need it in the future. This only furthers the isolation your friend may be experiencing.

  • Respect your friend's right to make their own decisions. They need to
    find their own way to the important decisions in their life

  • Discuss what you have learned about domestic violence with your friend.
    Share the information.

  • Support your friend by being there for them and going with them to
    important appointments dealing with the abuse. Let them do the talking and you be the caring, silent support source.

  • If they are contemplating leaving an abusive relationship, help create
    a [safety plan link to safety plan]. Remember it is important that your friend feels comfortable with the plan - never encourage them to follow a plan that they don't consider "safe."

Caring about your friend and their safety is an important step in helping them leave an abusive relationship. Your friendship, patience and support will help empower your friend and hopefully lead them to a safer and happier way of life. To know more about how to support a friend who is in an abusive relationship, a good book to read is To Be An Anchor In The Storm. A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women by Susan Brewster, M.S.S.W.


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