Helping Someone You Know

Below are ways you can help a family member, loved one or friend regarding domestic violence or sexual assault.

Please also visit our “Resources” page to find a listing or national and statewide organizations that can assist survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

HOW TO HELP: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Are you concerned that someone you care about is experiencing abuse? One of the most important ways you can help someone in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might empower them to make their own decisions. Additionally, you can offer support in various ways:

  • Voice your concern! Let the individual know that you are concerned. Explain to them why. If you are scared for their safety, tell them.
  • Be supportive, not bossy. Explain your concerns, but do not tell the individual what to do. Make sure the victim of abuse feels like she has options and that your friendship is not depend on her decision to stay or leave.
  • Be nonjudgmental. It is much more useful to express concern, than it is to place blame. Blame often causes individuals to be defensive and closed off.
  • Help increase outside activities.

Perpetrators often use isolation as a method of control. Increased social support outside the home can lead to enhanced self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-efficacy. High levels of social support have also been linked to decreased levels of depression, anxiety, and panic.

  • Help develop a safety plan. Educate yourself on local and national resources. Violence tends to escalate following a separation attempt, rather than decrease. As such, it may be useful to consult with a local advocacy agency, such as Bright Future Foundation, to help develop a plan of action.
  • You cannot rescue them! On average, victims of domestic violence leave the abusive relationship seven times before permanently leaving. An individual must make this choice on their own, in their own time, and in their own way. Do not beat yourself up if your attempts to help are rejected. Voicing your concern will still have an impact!
  • Remember, even if the relationship ends, the impact is not over. Stay supportive.

HOW TO HELP: SEXUAL ASSAULT

It’s not easy to know what to say when someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, especially when that person is a family member, friend or loved one.  There are ways to show support.

  • Start by believing! Your reaction can make a world of a difference. Victims of sexual assault often struggle with self-blame and fear that if/when they do tell someone, they will not be believed. Be open, listen, and stay supportive. Do not judge. Do not cast blame.

End Violence Against Women recently launched the “Start By Believing” campaign. Visit: www.evawintl.org for more information.

  • Be supportive. Accept the victim’s version of events. Do not ask questions about the series of events; rather focus on how you can be supportive and the needs of the victim.
  • Challenge self-blame. There is no shame when your loved one dies. When your car is stolen. When you’re diagnosed with cancer. Friends and loved ones gather around you for support. They don’t blame you for “bringing it on yourself.” If a victim tries to take blame, reassure them that it was not their fault.
  • Encourage action. Victims of sexual assault are often overwhelmed, both physically and emotionally. It is common for victims to want to avoid anything related to the encounter. However, it is important for victims to understand all of their reporting and evidence-gathering options. Encourage the victim to contact someone who can discuss this process: a hotline (such as Bright Future Foundation), a hospital, or law enforcement.
  • Help develop a plan. Educate yourself on local and national resources. It may be useful to consult with a local advocacy agency, such as Bright Future Foundation, to help develop a plan of action.
  • Stay supportive. The psychological impact of sexual assault can last for years. Remain supportive even when the crisis stage is over.