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Tips for Helping a Loved One or Friend Get Out of an Abusive Relationship

If a friend or loved one is being abused, it is important to help them get out of the relationship and get to safety. As mentioned in the previous document, victims often have many reasons for not leaving their abuser, and pushing someone into taking action that he or she is hesitant to pursue will only increase their feelings of powerlessness. However, if someone you know is in immediate danger, the situation may require more support or action on your part, especially if the victim is not emotionally or physically able to help him or herself. The following tips may help guide you in offering support to an abuse victim:
  • Phone the police if you are concerned about the person's safety. Do not physically intervene in domestic violence.
  • Don't ask the person being abused what he or she did to provoke the violence. This just reinforces the belief that he or she is at fault.
  • Help the victim understand what he or she is feeling. A person who has been abused often feels upset, depressed, confused and scared. Let him or her know these are normal feelings. Find a private place to speak with the victim and ask open-ended, non-threatening questions. For example, "You seem to be a little down. Would you like to talk about it?"
  • Don't make decisions for the victim; rather encourage him or her to seek help. It is usually best to let him or her decide to stay, leave or seek help.
  • Do not expect a person being abused to make hurried decisions. Many victims choose to stay with the partner in hope that the violence will stop. You can help the individual by providing long-term support and encouragement. Unfortunately, it may take years for the victim to make the decision to leave.
  • Never discuss the violence in the presence of the abuser. The victim may feel too threatened to speak freely in the presence of his or her abusive partner and if he or she does speak out, the repercussions may be serious.
  • If the victim does leave the abusive relationship, never pass on information about his or her whereabouts to anyone.
  • If someone has an obvious physical injury, don't ignore it; ask him or her about it as sensitively as possible. If the individual insists that the injury was caused by an accident, all you can do is indicate that you feel this may not be the case and that you would be willing to listen if he or she wanted to discuss it now or in the future.
  • Take action to ensure the safety of the abused person regardless of whether he or she stays in the relationship or leaves. Inform the victim of options available for support such as seeking legal advice, joining a support group, filing assault charges, obtaining a restraining order, planning an escape or making a plan to alert neighbors.
  • Provide the victim with information on how to access community or employer-sponsored resources and encourage him or her to seek counseling. For information on organizations that assist victims of domestic violence, please see the "Helpful Resources" section at the end of this document.
  • Help the victim develop a safety plan and offer to be the "trusted person" identified in the "Staying Safe" section above who keeps items on hand, etc.
Are You At Risk of Becoming Abusive?

Even if you do not think of yourself as an abusive person, there are some warning signs that may indicate you are hurting someone you love. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence recommends asking yourself the following questions:

  • Has my partner told me that my words or actions hurt him or her?
  • Has my partner asked me to stop those hurtful words or actions?
  • Have I ever used force or threats to make my partner do something that he or she didn't want to do?
  • Have I ever used force or threats to prevent my partner from doing something he or she wanted to do?
  • Has my partner complained that I have pressured him or her into unwanted sexual activities?
  • Has my partner complained that I control or dominate his or her life in unwanted ways?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, of if you feel that you may potentially hurt yourself or someone else, seek help immediately. Contact a mental health professional, the police or one of the helpful resources below.

To learn more about what you can do to meet the President▒s Challenge for a Healthier US and to help yourself, your family, friends, co-workers and employees enjoy a healthier lifestyle visit these websites:
  • American Bar Association Commission on
    Domestic Violence

    740 15th Street, N.W.
    9th Floor
    Washington, D.C. 20005
    This site offers a wealth of information and statistics on domestic violence. It provides resources and contact information for many national and local organizations that can provide attorney referrals, shelter referrals, advocacy programs and other information.

  • National Center for Victims of Crime
    2000 M Street, N.W., Suite 480
    Washington, D.C. 20036
    800-FYI-CALL (800-394-2255)
    TTY: 800-211-7996
    This organization offers crime victims and concerned individuals with practical information on appropriate local services, counseling, advocacy, safety planning, shelters and other supportive services.

  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
    PO Box 18749
    Denver, CO 80218
    NCADV serves as a national information and referral center for the general public, media, battered women and their children. It also offers a list of state coalition offices and telephone numbers you can call to find support and a shelter nearest you.

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    PO Box 161810
    Austin, Texas 78716
    800-799-SAFE (7233)
    TDD Hearing Impaired: 800-787-3224
    The hotline provides help for domestic violence victims nationwide, 24-hours a day, 365 days a year. The service is toll-free and operates throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The web site provides information on domestic violence, a suggested reading list, and additional domestic violence links.