The number of domestic violence cases is so staggering you probably know more victims than you realize. 1 out of 4 women, 1 out of 7 men, and 2 out of 4 homosexual men have experienced abuse at least once in their lives. These numbers, sadly, don’t mean anything to most of us unless someone we care about gets involved.
If that happens, are we ready to break the wall silence? Here’s how to approach domestic violence and help a friend get through it:
Start a Conversation but Let Them Tell Their Story
When you see warning signs that an intimate partner is abusing a friend, the first instinct is to tell them that what they’re experiencing is domestic violence. “You have to escape now,” you would probably suggest.
We understand that you’re coming from a place of concern and love. Unfortunately, your friend is too confused and overwhelmed by the recent events to see that. Chances are, they’ll answer you with a blank face and deny all the obvious red flags. As someone who’s extending help, you might find this denial frustrating. But don’t give up yet. None of this is about you.
It’s important to remember that abusers find ways to isolate their victims and attack their sense of self-worth. As a result, the latter doubt their thoughts and feelings. Your friend must be going through a lot of emotions that they can’t understand, let alone process. Ashamed and overwhelmed, they tend to shut themselves off further from family and friends.
Instead of telling them what you’re thinking, say that you care about them and their safety—and do so in a non-judgmental manner. They need a safe space to speak up and tell their story the way they believe it. Once they see that you’re genuinely worried, their fears and concerns would somehow get validated. In a way, you’re sending the message that they don’t just imagine things.
Don’t Make the Decision for Them
Victims of abuse are often robbed of their power and control. Abruptly telling them what to do next doesn’t bring back that sense of control over their situation and life. A better way to continue the conversation is to ask them what they would like to do.
Let them think on their own. And whatever their decision, remain supportive and don’t try to change their mind. The key is meeting them where they’re at. They understand their situation better, and they’re the only person that knows what best for them. Keep an open mind and accept their decision without judgment. This approach helps make them feel they’re in control again.
If it turns out that their next step worries you, like staying with their partner, tell them you care about their safety. Remind them that no matter what happens, you have their back.
Walk the Talk
If your friend does decide to end the abusive relationship, make help accessible. The most important thing is to get them out of the household and into a safe place. Lend a hand in calling domestic violence programs where employment and housing resources are available.
Another way to offer further support is to help them file the appropriate charges. That way, both parties have the chance to illustrate what happened as they saw it and get a fair trial in the court of law. Your friend’s partner could also ask a criminal defense lawyer in Provo to help them defend their side.