Talking with a Victim

Talking to a Friend Who is Being Abused

dv image 8You might think that something as simple as talking to a friend about abuse couldn’t possibly make a difference. But it really can. Just knowing that someone cares enough to ask about the abuse can break through the wall of isolation that can exist around victims of relationship abuse.

If you think a friend or loved one is being abused, talking to them about it. Listen to them. Let them know you care. You don’t have to be an expert. You just need to be a friend.

• Gently ask direct questions about her situation. Give her time to talk. Ask again a few days later. Don’t’ rush into providing solutions.

• Listen without judging. Often a battered individual believes their abuser’s negative messages about themselves.

• Tell them the abuse is not their fault. Explain that physical or emotional abuse in a relationship is never acceptable. There’s no excuse for it – not alcohol or drugs, financial pressure, depression, jealousy nor any behavior of theirs.

• Emphasize that when they want help, it is available. Let them know that domestic violence tends to get worse and become more frequent with time and that it rarely goes away on its own.

• Explain that relationship abuse is a crime and that they can seek protection from the police or courts as well as help from a local domestic violence program.

• Work with them to identify resources to help them take care of themselves, get emotional support and build their self-esteem.

• If they are your neighbor, come up with a way they can signal you if they needs you to call the police, such as turning a porch light on during the day or lowering a particular window shade.

• If they decide to leave their relationship, they may need money, assistance finding a place to live, a place to store their belongings or a ride to a shelter. Think about ways you might feel comfortable helping them.

• If you want to talk with someone yourself to get advice about a particular situation, contact a local domestic violence program.

Once you have brought the subject up, bring it up again. Try not to get frustrated if you reach out to a friend and they stay with their batterer or goes back to them. Ending any relationship is a process that takes time. Ending a violent relationship is even harder. Usually, the victim fears for their life. They may also want their children to grow up with a second parent. Perhaps their self-esteem is so damaged that they think they can’t make it on their own or they believe their abuser when their told the violence is all their fault. Or they just want the violence to end, not the relationship.

Do’s and Don’ts


  • Ask if something is wrong.
  • Express concern.
  • Listen and validate.
  • Offer help.
  • Support his or her decisions.


  • Wait for him or her to come to you.
  • Judge or blame.
  • Pressure him or her.
  • Give advice.
  • Place conditions on your support.

Talk to the person in private and let him or her know that you’re concerned. Point out the things you’ve noticed that make you worried. Tell the person that you’re there, whenever he or she feels ready to talk. Reassure the person that you’ll keep whatever is said between the two of you, and let him or her know that you’ll help in any way you can.

Remember, abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally abused or battered are depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They need help to get out, yet they’ve often been isolated from their family and friends. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.

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