How to Help a Friend or Family Member Who Is in an Abusive Relationship

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Have you ever had a close friend or a family member who was in an abusive relationship? Were you lost on how to help? It can be a difficult and challenging situation to know what to do to and how to help the loved one.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (2016) these are some of the warning signs when a loved one can be involved in an abusive relationship:

  • Their partner puts them down in front of other people
  • They are consistently scared about making their partner angry
  • They make excuses to explain their partner’s behavior
  • Their partner becomes excessively jealous or possessive
  • They have unexplained injuries or markings on their body
  • They become isolated and do not spend time with friends or family
  • They become anxious and depressed or you notice changes in their personality

Abuse is about power and control. The most important thing you can do for a loved one who is an abusive relationship is to empower them to make their own decisions. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (2016) offers a variety of supportive techniques you can utilize when speaking with a loved one. Below are some helpful tips on how to offer support to a loved one according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  • Be Supportive and Listen – Recognize They are in a Very Difficult and Scary Situation. Reassure the loved one they are not to blame for the abuse, it is never their fault. Offer them unconditional support and a listening ear. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse but they will need someone who they can trust when they decide to disclose
  • Respect Their Decisions and Be Non-Judgmental. Do not judge or criticize the loved one’s decisions. There are many reasons why the loved one chooses to go back and stay with their abusive partner. However, this is when they will need the most support.
  • Continue to be Supportive If the Relationship Ends. Although, it may be a good thing the loved one left the abuser it is best to comfort and provide support to the loved one because they may need time to mourn the loss of the relationship.
  • Encourage Loved One to Participate in Activities Outside of the Relationship. By offering a supportive environment around the loved one it may be easier for them to take the steps in getting safe and staying safe away from the abusive partner. Native Health does offer assistance in speaking with a Victim Service’s Case Manager who can meet with victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
  • Assist Loved One in Developing a Safety Plan. There are different types of safety plans that can be created. If the loved one decides to stay or is preparing to leave or has already left the abuser safety plan resources can be found on the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Also, the Victim Service’s Case Manager is able to provide safety planning resources at Native Health as well.
  • Encourage Them to Talk to Someone Who Can Provide Help and Guidance. There are several agencies within the Phoenix area who can offer support services to victims of domestic violence. Native Health does offer counseling, case management, prevention education as well as a women’s empowerment group – The Weaving Butterflies. The loved one may need moral support when reaching out for assistance. Offer to go with them to seek assistance.
  • Remember You Cannot “Rescue” Them. It is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt but ultimately it is up to the loved one to make the decisions on what they want to do. By continuing to support them not matter what it may encourage them to find a way to safety and peace.

For further information regarding domestic violence please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website for more resources on how to help a loved one who is in an abusive relationship.

NATIVE HEALTH offers victim services to individuals who are Native American/Alaskan Native, 13 years and older. We can assist you in building a safety kit or even just to talk about your situation. Call (602) 279-5262, x 3210 or email: