Dos and Donts of Helping A Victim

If you are not trained in providing help and support to victims of domestic abuse, here are some tips to help you handle the situation.

What To Do:

  • Start the conversation in a safe and confidential place
  • Express your concern
  • Assure the victim that whatever they choose to share is confidential
  • Listen closely to what the victim has to say
  • Believe their story
  • Tell them it is not their fault
  • Help them see their good qualities and boost their self-esteem
  • Tell them domestic abuse is not ok under any circumstances
  • Ask them about their plan to leave
  • Ask them if they want external help
  • Ask them how you can help

Whatever they choose, respect their choices and be patient (even though this can be difficult)

Do Not:

  • Do not blame them for their choice of partner
  • Do not say I told you so
  • Do not judge or any conclusions about their feelings
  • Do not pressure them to leave
  • Do not try to provide counseling unless you are trained to do so

In the meantime, consider helping them get information on any laws regarding protective orders/restraining orders, spousal support, and child custody. If the victim or your loved one has photo/video evidence of the abuse, ask them if they want to take legal action against their abuser. If they decide to call the police, stay with them until the cops arrive.  

If they decide against calling the police at that time, let them know you are there for them and available when they need you. It would be best to provide a fast way to reach you in case of an emergency. If you give a third party’s contact, inform them that the third party has their utmost confidence.

Also, help the victim form a safety plan they can act on if they are ready to leave and you are not within reach. A good safety plan is visual and outlines steps to arrive at the end goal safely. You may need to go over the safety plan with them several times.

Remember to take the Danger Assessment Quiz.

The Question Of Confronting Their Abuser

It depends. While you may be unhappy about the situation, understand that abuse is about power and control. By confronting the abuser, you put yourself and the victim in potential danger. The rules on helping a victim of abuse are not set in stone. However, avoid complicating the situation. If you are concerned, talk to an expert about how best you can help.

Call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on (800) 799-SAFE (7233).