Help for Friends & Family

Recongizing Signs of Abuse and Offering Support to Loved Ones

Are you concerned that someone you care about is experiencing abuse? Maybe you’ve noticed some of the following warning signs from a friend or family member:

  • Constantly worries about making their partner angry
  • Makes excuses for their partner’s behavior
  • Has unexplained marks or injuries
  • Has stopped spending time with friends and family
  • Seems depressed or anxious, or demonstrates changes in personality
  • Is put down by their partner in front of other people
  • Experiences their partner being extremely jealous or possessive

Options for Providing Support

One of the most important ways you can help someone is to believe them.  Often victims feel no one will believe them because the abusive partner presents a very different public persona or has told the victim everyone will think she is crazy or making things up.  For many victims their partner was kind and attentive early in the relationship, and the abuse began gradually and intensified with time.  For a victim, being able to share their story and tell someone about the abuse, terror and confusion they have experienced is affirming and fosters real hope.

Be supportive and listen. Remind them that the abuse is not their fault. They many have conflicting feelings about the abusive partner, or it may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that their feelings are normal and you are there to support them. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is confidential help and support available.

Respect their decisions. There are many reasons why victims remain in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship multiple times, and it may be hard for you to understand their reasons.  Escaping an abusive situation is not just about the victim choosing to leave, it is often whether the victim can safely flee the situation.  Be honest about your concern for their safety, but don't place any blame or guilt on them. Let them know you understand their situation is difficult and that they are the expert on their own life and safety.

Reinforce to the victim all of their good qualities.  Due to the abuse, their life has probably been filled with negative messages and consistently being ridiculed on their appearance, humor, thoughts and actions. Hearing how much they are valued by others and what a good friend/family member/co-worker/parent they are validates that they deserve better, and have the strength and support to safely navigate the situation.

Talk to the victim about creating a safety plan.  Safety planning can be essential for when they feel the abuse is escalating, if the violence reoccurs or if they are planning on leaving the abusive situation.  Victims are at a greater risk of being killed by their abusive partner when attempting to leave.  Each step of a safety plan should take into account the benefits for the victim (and their children), potential risks involved and ways to lower those risks.

Safety Plans should include:

  • The victim trusting their intuition or gut if a violent incident is about to occur
  • Having a charged phone to contact 911
  • Identifying a safe place to go in an emergency and the means to safely get there
  • Talking to the children on how to stay safe, calling 911 and having a code word to alert family, neighbors or friends
  • Keeping cash, keys and purse or wallet in an accessible place to easily grab in an emergency

Call SPIP at 651-645-2824 to learn more about safety planning.

Provide them with options they can use when they are ready. Let them know connecting with an advocate is confidential, that they have the skills and resources to help them, and they treat all victims with kindness and respect. Be able to share the local crisis line number with them. SPIP advocates are available at 651-645-2824.  The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).  Encourage them to call the police if they are harmed or fearful of being harmed.

Supporting Someone Who Has Ended an Abusive Relationship

If someone ends their abusive relationship, they will need continued support.

Domestic violence does not often end when a victim flees or ends the relationship.  An abusive person's feeling of loss of control can often increase their abuse and violence.  A victim is often at an increased risk of harm or injury when attempting to leave.  Having the support of advocates can assist them in safely navigating the situation and putting safety measures, support and protection in place.

And even though the relationship was abusive, a victim may experience sadness or a feeling of loss.  They need time and support to process what they have been through and even grieve the end of the relationship.