How to Help a Friend
Offer Support: Find out if she wants to talk or share her feelings. Don’t pressure her, but let her know you are there if she needs you.
Listen and believe: Listen to her story without judging her actions. Focus your concerns on her partner’s specific behaviors that seem abusive, controlling or violent. Name the abusive behaviors without “trashing” the abuser.
Understand: Maintain respect for fears, pressures and needs that may hold her in the relationship. Remember that it isn’t helpful to you or to her to judge her reasons for staying.
Provide information: Learn about domestic violence and the resources in the community. Tell her about MAAV and/or give her a “palm card” listing hotline numbers and other resources.
Focus on safety: Ask if you can help her plan ways to keep herself and her children safe. MAAV has information on safety planning if she is ready to do this.
Be patient: Ending any relationship takes time and is complicated; ending a violent one with controlling behaviors is even more so, and can be dangerous. She may need to reach out many times in order to leave permanently.
What Doesn’t Help
Trying to Rescue: Bonds of family and friendship and a sense of loyalty make it difficult to resist the urge to “rescue”. It is also tempting to try to initiate a plan of action on behalf of the woman, such as trying to arrange a shelter stay or other services, without consulting the woman.
Telling a woman what she “ought” to do:
The urge to help can be counterproductive when it manifests itself as pressure, ultimatums, or acts of further control. By telling a woman what she ought to do, you force her to either let you down when she doesn’t take your advice or allow herself to be controlled once again by someone else’s idea of how she should behave.
Blaming or criticizing: Continuing to offer support when the situation never seems to “get better” often becomes extremely frustrating. You may feel angry or fed up with both the victim and the abuser, which are natural reactions. However, women who sense this may withdraw, increasing her isolation and dependency on the batterer. Give yourself support by talking with a friend or call MAAV at 662-2010.
Continue to give the woman a reason to believe in herself by showing her that you believe in her.