If you have a friend or family member going through a difficult cycle of abuse, you must assess the situation first. If at this point they have already reached out to you and asked for help, you have to let them make their own decisions and respect whatever they decide to do. There are a lot of options, and here are some steps you can take:
Listen to Them
As they confide in you, make sure to listen and not be aggressive to give advice. You want them to slowly gain the confidence to think for themselves without feeling afraid of their abuser controlling and restricting them. Instead of giving advice, discuss what they can do on their own and how you can help. If they ask you a favor to do something, go ahead and do it for them.
Help Prepare Essentials
Even if a domestic abuse victim feels determined to leave, there may be many things that would hold them back. Fear of what their abuser might do, of losing custody of children, or of what society might say, among other things. This is where you can comfort them and make them feel that they have someone who will be with them throughout the process.
Help them understand that they should first think about leaving and what to bring on the day. Give them a hand in making a list of what is essential to them and what they can leave behind. This is called an “escape bag,” which they can grab as they leave. Things like birth certificates, passports, a bit of cash, and change of clothes should be on the list.
Have a Safe Code
Leaving an abusive relationship takes time, so if the person being abused is still residing in the same place with their abusive partner, it might be difficult to talk about escape over the phone, text, or even online, as their partner might have access to those. You have to discuss an effective way for them to communicate, asking for help if things escalate and get violent in their house.
Especially when people are forced to stay at home, domestic violence cases have increased. In different countries like the UK, governments have created a safe code for victims to use in pharmacies to ask for help. Find out if there is such an initiative in your local pharmacies, too.
Don’t Take the Word of an Accused Perpetrator
If the abuser finds out they have been discovered, they might try to cover up and deny allegations by making excuses. They might say it was a “spur of the moment” or even blame the abused individual. On your end, it is best to rely on the word of the victim and evidence than of the perpetrator. Believing in the perpetrator will only make their victim -your friend, family, coworker, neighbor, or person you know shy away from you and make it harder for them to seek help.
Give Them Options
Learning about what legal action they can take may sound intimidating, but it could prove very useful if you help them reach out to a family attorney. You can also help by learning about domestic violence support services available in your area, so they’d have a number to call when they are ready. One more thing you can do is find a safe place for them to stay once they leave.
An abused person can teeter between conflicting emotions and switch from feeling determined to leave to feeling hopeless about their situation. You will feel frustrated as they continue to be fickle and continue to stay in their relationship, but it’s in this situation that you have to continue your support. Let them know that you will continue to be available, and let them know how you feel about the situation. Remember to remain level-headed and avoid judging or reprimanding them, but instead reassure them of your presence.
You should also remember to seek help for yourself as well. You don’t have to be the only one helping your friend or family member. Contact your Domestic Violence Hotline to find out more about how you can help and what steps to take to ensure your abused friend or family’s safety.
Lastly, if your friend or family has children, it is never good to leave them behind with the abuser. Ensure that when they leave, they are together with their children and have a sure place to go to as soon as they leave their house.