Five Ways On Helping A Friend Who May Be In An Abusive Relationship
Realizing that someone who you are close to might be in an abusive relationship is scary. You may feel the need to take action immediately to protect your friend. But, it’s important to stop for a moment before jumping in to help.
Confronting someone who is in an abusive relationship can be risky for many reasons.
- If you don’t prepare what you want to say, you might come across as judgemental or preachy—which may make your friend shut down completely;
- If you place the blame for the abuse on your friend, you may be the opposite of helpful; and
- If you talk to your friend when their partner is nearby, you could put both of you in a dangerous situation.
If that leaves you wondering how to help someone in an abusive relationship, we assure you that there are effective ways to be of assistance. Being a calm, friendly, and supportive listener can go a long way when broaching this subject with someone you care about.
If you think someone you’re close to is in an abusive relationship, being prepared for that conversation is important. Here are our five tips for helping a loved one get out of an abusive relationship.
Start the Conversation
If your instincts are correct and your friend is in an abusive relationship, it’s unlikely that they’ll be the one to bring it up. Many victims of relationship abuse don’t view themselves that way, and they might be too close to the situation to realize what is going on. So, you will likely have to be the one to initiate the conversation.
This might feel uncomfortable or invasive for you at first. However, it’s important to remember that your friend’s wellbeing is more important than your feeling awkward for a few moments.
A good way to broach the subject is to calmly explain to them the behavior or situations you’ve been noticing. As touched on above, it is important that you not be:
- Panicked, or
In this conversation, you need to convey to your friend that you are worried about them because you love them. You need to let them know that you are supportive of and there for them.
Let Them Do The Talking
Once your friend has confirmed that they are in an abusive relationship, it is time for you to do the listening. Let your loved one tell you their version of the situation and how they are feeling. It can derail the conversation if you jump in or shift the focus away from them too often.
That being said, you also don’t want to come across as a passive listener as a therapist would. This is a conversation between friends, not a counseling session. You can offer small anecdotes or words of encouragement when you sense your friend needs them.
Offer to Help, But Never Force Your Friend to Take It
When trying to figure out how to help someone in an abusive relationship, it can be frustrating when they don’t immediately accept your offer to help. However, remember that they lack a lot of control in their life right now. The bottom line is that accepting assistance has to be on their own terms.
Your friend may panic if you try to force them to:
- Report their situation to the authorities;
- Break up with their partner immediately; or
- Take other action to alleviate the situation before they are ready.
It is likely that your loved one needs some time to process your conversation and come to terms with what they want to do next.
The best thing you can do is tell your friend that they can always rely on you. Let them know that they can call you whenever they want to and that you’re open to talking about their situation more. Letting them initiate the next conversation about their relationship will empower them.
The one caveat to this piece of advice is if you ever directly witness violence. In this situation, immediately call 9-1-1.
Even if, and perhaps especially if, your friend needs some time to process everything after your conversation, sharing some resources with them can be very helpful.
Good resources to help someone in an abusive relationship are:
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE);
- The number for a local counseling resource; and
- Contact information for attorneys who represent domestic violence victims.
Giving your loved one these resources might empower them to make the decision that is best for their situation.
Be A Continuous Support System
Having the first conversation with your friend in an abusive relationship might start you on a long path of support. You should be prepared for a lengthy process of your friend accepting and then taking action against their abusive relationship.
You should expect to have more conversations with your friend about their relationship and circumstances. Your friend returning to you means that your friend trusts your advice and opinion. However, if you begin to feel overwhelmed, it is okay to say that you’re still here for them, but that you think they should also start talking to a therapist or counselor.
Additionally, be prepared to help your friend make a plan for when they are ready to exit their abusive relationship. Help your friend decide:
- How they are going to talk to their partner;
- How they are going to leave the situation; and
- Where they are going to go afterward they summon the courage to leave.
Additionally, if your friend needs to file a restraining order or criminal charges, you should have a good criminal prosecutor to refer them to.
These tips for helping a loved one get out of an abusive relationship are a great starting point for you to use. However, they are not comprehensive.
Your most important role as a friend is to voice your concerns and to be a support system for your friend. You should never put yourself in harm’s way, and you should feel comfortable contacting experts if you begin to feel inadequately qualified for the situation.
Talking to a loved one about the possibility of them being in an abusive relationship can be scary. But it is scarier to do nothing. These five ways of helping a friend who may be in an abusive relationship are a great way to feel comfortable beginning the conversation.