How to Help a Friend in an Abusive Relationship
You may be one of the first people to notice the signs of your friend's abusive relationship. And with this knowledge comes the difficult decision of determining what to do to help your friend. Here are some tips to help a friend in an abusive relationship.
Do Some Research
As soon as you suspect a friend is being abused, do some research. Educate yourself. Find out everything you can about domestic violence and abuse. The library can be an excellent resource for this. This way when it comes time to talk to your friend about the abuse, you can provide specific facts instead of your personal (and perhaps emotional) opinions. Often the victim won't acknowledge they're being abused and you may need to help him or her understand the seriousness of the situation. The only way to do this is with hard facts instead of your perception of their relationship.
Contact local support groups, shelters or crisis hotlines to find out specific ways to help your friend. Most people don't have the expertise to deal with an abusive relationship and reaching out for help will be better for your friend in the long run.
Open the Lines of Communication
When it's time to talk to your friend, approach the subject carefully and gently. Your friend may be ashamed or in denial and not wish to discuss his or her miserable relationship. Mention that you've noticed something concerning about your friend's relationship. Make sure you let your friend know that it's not his or her fault that they're a victim of abuse.
More Than Just Lip Service
Keep in contact with your friend after the initial lines of communication have been opened. This means you'll want to check on them regularly to make sure they're okay. Expect some coldness from a friend who is initially in denial and feels that you're belittling their "perfect" relationship.
Once your friend confides in you about the abuse, be there to help. Create a discreet code word or phrase to use in an emergency situation. Be aware that it may take a while for your friend to leave the abusive relationship even once they acknowledge it to others. Never give up on your friend even if you feel frustrated that he or she remains in a bad relationship.
Abusers tend to be controlling so you may need to help your friend gain some independence before leaving. This means you may want to help your friend store and accumulate money or possessions before they leave. Offer to store an emergency get-away bag in your home or other location in case your friend needs to leave his or her home suddenly for safety reasons.
Help your friend create a detailed safety plan including individuals to contact for help as well as community and legal resources kept in a place the abuser has no access to.