How To Help A Loved One Experiencing Domestic Violence

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You probably know more people experiencing domestic violence than you think. According to everyday feminism 30% of couples struggle with domestic violence of some sort. In other words, 1 in 4 women report having experienced domestic violence in her lifetime, 1 in 4 gay man and 17-45% of lesbian women report having experienced physical violence by their partners.

But how can we help someone if we see red flags? Your first instinct may be to tell the victim that what they’re experiencing is domestic violence and they need to get out. Talking to a victim of domestic violence isn’t often that easy as it seems at the first sight. Many victims of domestic violence try to deny that they are being abused. This goes back to the fact that their abuser has probably been working very hard to isolate the victim and destroy their self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

What we need to bear in mind is that it is so important to let the victim determine the next steps, to make their own decisions and take back the power and control over their own lives. When we make decisions for others, when we try to help them do what they are not ready to do for themselves, we are taking their power and control away from them. So how do you have these conversations? They’re not always easy but here’s a list of ways you can support someone you care about to become empowered and take action to escape the abuse:

Get Support from Your Local Domestic Violence Program
Remember, you’re not alone.  You can reach out to people’s whose job it is to help people in these situations and lean on their advice.

Talk To Them For the First Time About the Abuse
The most important thing in such conversations is to communicate your concern without judgment. Let the victim tell their own story and decide their own process. Remember, no one understands their abuser and their situation better than them. While you may have seen some signs of abuse, there’s probably many things you don’t understand about the relationship that impact how they think and feel. Instead, focus on creating a space where they can realize their own power and control over their lives and decide what steps they want to take. Remember, this is about them, not you and what you want for them.

Support Them through the Long-Haul
Leaving takes thoughtful planning, requires established support and needs to be done safely, especially when there are children involved.  So your first conversation may not lead to change. But at least you’ve planted the seed that they deserve better and there are people who can and will help. So it’s important that you mange your expectations about the impact of your support. You can’t save anyone but you can be there for them, unconditionally.

If all this seems overwhelming, remember these words, “No matter what you decide to do, I will support you and I will be here for you whenever you need me.”

Sandra Kim is the Founder & Executive Director of Everyday Feminism. She brings together her personal and professional experience with trauma, personal transformation, and social change and gives it all a feminist twist.


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