Anyone can help stop domestic violence by taking these steps

Anyone can help stop domestic violence by taking these steps


You can play an important role in helping a friend, co-worker, neighbor, or family member that is being abused by an intimate partner or somebody they are dating. Learn the facts about domestic violence and ways you can help or support a friend.

What is Domestic Violence?

Domestic violence is a pattern of abuse in which one partner in an intimate relationship attempts to take power and control over another. Domestic violence can occur in both opposite-sex and same-sex relationships, and can happen to intimate partners who are married, living together, or dating. It can happen to cisgender and transgender partners as well. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical, verbal, financial, and sexual abuse.  One in three women and one in four men experience domestic violence in their lifetime. (http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/nisvs_report2010-a.pdf).  For more statistics and facts about domestic violence, please visit http://www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics.

Recognizing the Signs of Domestic Violence

Recognizing the signs of domestic violence is the first step to intervention. If you notice any of the following signs, it could be an indicator that your friend is in an abusive relationship. If they:

  • Seem to be under emotional distress, depressed, feeling self-doubt or shame
  • Seem isolated, unusually quiet, or anxious around family or friends
  • Have unexplained bruises and/or injuries
  • Act differently or strangely in social situations, at work, or at school
  • Wear unseasonable clothing, like long sleeves in the summer
  • Give explanations that don’t add up
  • Are often tardy or miss work or school, or frequently cancel plans
  • Receive disruptive and excessive phone calls, texts, emails, or frequent visits from a partner
  • Act fearful around their partner
  • Have a partner who is emotionally abusive, and belittles and insults them in front of other people
  • Have a partner who is extremely controlling (socially, financially, or over appearance)

What You Can Do to Help:

Listen and Remain Supportive. Tell your friend/family member that you care and are willing to listen. Do not force them to talk about anything they don’t want to talk about, but allow them to confide in you at their own pace. Assure them that it is not their fault and they should never be treated that way. Take your friend’s concerns seriously. Honor the need for confidentiality unless there is immediate danger. Always respect their choices and avoid judgement.

Focus on His/Her Strengths. Your friend or family member has probably been continuously told by their abuser that s/he is to blame for their abuse and may not feel very good about themselves. Your friend will be in need of emotional support and a reminder that they are worth it. Emphasize the fact that they deserve a life free from violence and remind them of all of their valuable strengths and skills.

Connect to Resources. Guide your friend to resources and encourage them to get help. There are many organizations that provide free, confidential help. 

Make a Plan. Help your friend figure out a way to stay safe, whether or not they are ready to leave the relationship. Offer to let your friend use your phone or computer if they are afraid of being tracked by their abuser. Domestic violence advocates or hotlines can also be a good resource for helping create this safety plan.

Take Action. If you sense that your friend is in immediate danger, don’t be afraid to take action. Figure out with your friend what works best in their situation and help them stay safe. Remember that domestic violence is a crime and call 911 if you sense a threat of immediate danger.

Consider taking a quiz on how to help a friend in need. There are websites with quizzes and links for those affected by domestic violence, their friends and family, and bystanders.

Call out a Friend/Family Member Who is Being Abusive. Unless there is an immediate threat to your health or safety by intervening with an abusive friend, tell them very clearly that his/her behavior is not okay. Be sure to let them know that you will be supportive of their efforts to change, but you will not support abusive behavior. Encourage them to get help, and be a role model for healthy relationships.

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