In the United States, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime (Source: NCADV.org). With such high statistics, you have likely had a loved one experience violence, whether or not you were aware of their experience. If they came to you for help, would you know what to do? Every situation is different, but here are 10 tips to get started with your loved one experiencing violence:
1. Talk to them.
Domestic Violence is often seen as an issue meant to be kept private or kept within the home. Many people experience shame around their situation as well. You may have to start the difficult conversation about the violence several times before the person will confide in you, but keep the lines of communication open for them to discuss when ready.
2. Be direct.
Be direct, yet supportive by saying something like, “I’m worried about you because …..” or “I’m concerned about your safety…” Steer your language away from “you” statements, blaming statements, and “why” questions.
3. Do not judge them.
Often, the situation is complicated for them and you may not have all of the details.
4. Start by believing!
Listen to and believe what they tell you. Reassure them that the abuse is not their fault, you are there for them, and they are not alone.
5. Focus on supporting them and building their self-confidence.
Domestic Violence can damage self-esteem, self-image, and self-worth. Acknowledge their strengths and frequently remind them that they are coping well with a challenging and stressful situation.
6. Help them to develop or to keep up outside contacts.
A person experiencing domestic violence is often very isolated. Invite them to get-togethers, include them in social events, and keep inviting them even if they do not attend. Make sure they know they will have somewhere to turn if and when they are ready.
7. Be patient.
It can take time for a person to recognize they are being abused, and even longer to be able to make safe and permanent decisions about what to do. Recognizing the problem is an important first step, but on average, it takes 7 to 10 attempts before a person is finally ready to leave their abuser. Be understanding with them while they are on their journey.
8. Do not push them to leave or criticize them for staying.
Although you may want them to leave, they have to make that decision in their own time. It is important to remember that research shows an abused person is the most risk of harm at the point of separation from the abuser and immediately after leaving the abusive partner. Safety planning may need to come first.
9. Safety Plan!
Safety plan templates can be found in a simple Google search. However, the YWCA-SHR can also help create a safety plan over the phone or in person.
10. Provide information.
Provide the person with information about services and how to access resources, they do not have to navigate their situation alone. The YWCA-SHR’s 24-hour hotline number is 757-251-0144.
Once again, every situation is different. Across the board though, having a strong support network of friends, family, and advocates increases a survivor’s chance of successfully moving forward. Your support and the information you provide could mean the difference in a loved one’s safety.
This blog was written by Kathryn Cooke, Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator, YWCA South Hampton Roads. Kathyrn holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s and Gendered Studies from Virginia Wesleyan University. Kathryn facilitates training on various topics, including but not limited to domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, trauma, trauma-informed care, and cultural competency/humility as it pertains to survivors and violence. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.