HOW TO HELP A VICTIM OF ABUSE
What to Do
Let them know that you are concerned: When you begin noticing signs that someone you know may be in an abusive situation, the first thing to do is approach them and ask if everything’s alright. At first, they will most likely give an excuse and tell you everything is fine. This should not be a motivator to stop attempting to help. Continue to show concern for their situation in small and careful ways. For example, if you notice a bruise on their arm, you might say “that looks like a big bruise, everything alright?”. This makes the situation real to them, where they realize that it is considered an abnormal situation to the rest of the world. When they do become ready to leave the situation, they will know immediately that you are someone they can go to. It might not happen that day, but it will happen.
Find out how they would like to handle the situation: Once the victim does admit to the issue at hand, we advise you not to jump into action by instructing them on what to do next. Instead, be patient and ask what they think they should do. As they go about their intended strategy, ask questions to ensure that that is the best course of action for them. This makes them feel more in control of their matter at hand and helps them gain confidence to take the next step.
Encourage them to take the next steps: This should involve the victim calling or reaching out to a helpline of some form that specializes in handling victims of abuse. Remember, you are not a professional at this, but there are people who are. By getting the victim to this stage, they are well on their way to acquiring the help that they need.
Safety Planning: One of the most important steps in seeking help as a victim of abuse is to create a safety plan. This step is essential as leaving an abusive situation can create dangers for the victim, their family and friends, and/or the person helping them. Find a safe time for them to be able to research where they can go to and how to mitigate the risks that their abuser might be perpetrating. For example, if the victim has children, have them leave at a time when the abuser is not around, and ensure that the children go with the victim to their safe location; a location that the abuser knows nothing about. Each safety plan will be different, but each one is equally important.
Remind them that it is not their fault: It’s common for a victim to blame themselves for their situation, and typically this is the work of the abuser. Nobody should ever blame themselves for getting hit or manipulated by another person, but the victim will feel confused and embarrassed. As someone trying to help, you should encourage them that this feeling, while understandable, should not prohibit them from seeking support. Help them to understand that they did not have control over being abused, but do have the power to leave the situation that they are a part of.
Be there for them during their next steps: The victim might decide to leave their situation, they might decide to stay. Remember, this is a decision that they have to make themselves. It might take a long time to help someone leave an abusive situation, but keep in mind that if you look at them with judgement, or only offer help if they decide to leave, you are only pushing them further into isolation from their abuser. Their abuser will more than likely use such situations to their advantage, telling their victim that you do not actually care for them, but they are someone that does. If they do decide to leave, they are going to go through an incredibly difficult time - they may be dealing with heartbreak, lack of spousal support, lack of support networks which may continue into areas such as financial insecurity or lack of housing. The more you can motivate the victim to work for themselves, find their own housing, job, and support network, the less they will need a crutch and the less likely they will be to return to their abusive situation.