Help Others

Starting A Conversation With A Victim

You are here because you are a survivor of domestic abuse, and you want to help a victim in a similar situation. Maybe you find out that your loved one is a victim of domestic abuse and want to help them. While it is easy to confront their abuser straight on, this is not the most prudent way to approach the situation. 

Confronting the abuser may even escalate the abuse and make the victim less trusting and resist help. Instead, consider starting a conversation with the victim and helping the victim arrive at an independent resolution. 

Make Time

It is unwise to start a conversation with a victim of abuse if you are busy. Most likely, the conversation will last for a while because the victim needs to calm down and have your undivided attention. Consider putting your mobile phone on do-not-disturb or silent mode for the entire conversation. Timing is crucial if you want the victim to open up and share months and even years of experience putting up with abuse.


Starting The Conversation

Due to the cycle of violence, traumatic bonding, and the overarching phenomenon of Stockholm syndrome, understand that not every victim will want to talk about their struggles. Some even resist attempts to start a conversation about their situation. An excellent way to start a conversation is to use an opener like:

“I noticed some changes in you that concern me. It is ok if you do not want to talk about it right now, but I want you to know that I am here if you want to talk and need help.”

Before you make this statement, ensure you have found signs of abuse. Victims of domestic abuse often express a dampened mood or cover up bruises with more clothing. Then, it would help if you assured the victim of your utmost confidentiality.


Great, you have gotten your loved one to trust you. Listening is the central part of talking with the victim. Once your loved one starts talking, resist the urge to interject or set the tone. At this stage, your only concern is to make regular eye contact and listen to the story without being judgmental. You cannot offer advice or suggest solutions yet. Most victims already have an idea of what they need and mention it during the conversation. Of course, you can ask clarifying questions to keep the victim engage. However, your focus must be on listening actively and making mental notes.

Helping The Victim

Before You Start, Take the Danger Assessment Quiz

  • Assume you are the first person the victim has talked to about their abusive partner.
  • Thank him/her for unburdening and trusting you with information on that aspect of their life.
  • Assure him/her that you believe their story.
  • Validate their feelings.
  • Assure them you will not disclose what they have shared without their permission.
  • Ask your loved one what he/she wants to do.
  • If the victim does not have a firm idea, suggest
  • There and then help the victim find support and resources
  • Use a search engine to find the contact information and location of shelters, social services, attorneys, counselors, or support groups.

See Dos and Don’t of Helping A Victim.