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How to help a friend experiencing domestic violence? This question indeed comes with a lot of emotions and confusion. If a friend is confining in you, and talking about their experiences of abuse—pat yourself on the back, you have proved to be a good friend. But, now is the time to actually help them.

If someone is letting you know their personal details, you must be compassionate and lend them support at the very moment. Do not judge and listen to what they feel. There are different forms of abuse—physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, domestic, etc. Any kind of abuse is traumatizing—a traumatizing experience that one cannot forget. It takes a lot of time and effort to offer support to the person facing abuse.

As a friend of someone who is going through domestic violence, your role is to provide extended support and resources to recover in such a difficult situation. Let’s explore more about how to help a friend who is experiencing domestic violence and abuse.

Judgements out of the room:

The first step is to keep the judgments of the room. It is human nature to give suggestions or alter the story of another individual. But, if someone is experiencing abuse, you must be compassionate and non-judgemental.

You must try to create a safe space where your friend feels more comfortable about sharing their experiences. Avoid giving advice, until asked. Let the other person speak and share their feelings.

How to help a friend who is experiencing domestic violence is more of a complex question, but the person being abused needs help and support from their loved ones.

Validating emotions and experiences:

You cannot just ask your friend to brush their emotions under the carpet. You must believe in your friend’s account of abuse and validate their feelings. Make them believe that you are understanding their emotions, and their feelings are valid. In most of the cases, abuse comes with manipulation and control, hence the other person may doubt their own feelings and perceptions. They may feel that it was their fault. This can worsen the situation, hence your support may save a life.

Respect their choices:

You need to respect the choices of your friend. You may be offering them all the support in the world. But, maybe they are unable to take that support and help. Maybe you are asking them to move to your home so that they can be in a safe zone. But, there are chances that they might just decline your offer.

It is okay!

Let them make their choices, your friend may not be ready to take immediate action, they must be thinking from another perspective. Let them feel safe and ready, respect their choice. Do not pressurize them, as this can make them feel more isolated and controlled.

Convince them for professional help:

This is the best you can do for your friend. Suggest seeking professional help. Encourage your friend to speak with a counselor, therapist or a support group. If possible take them to a professional that knows how to handle domestic abuse survivors. Professionals know how to offer guidance and support, they know strategies for dealing with trauma. How to help a friend experiencing domestic violence, the first step should be assessing their mental health and taking them to a professional.

Offer Emotional Support:

For an abused individual, emotional support is literally everything. Make them understand that you are there for them emotionally. If they are crying, understand the emotions. If they are narrating an incident of abuse, let them talk. Spend time with time. May take your friend for different activities that they enjoy. Emotional support helps them, and counter the isolation as well.

Create a Safety Plan:

When they are stable and open to talk about their situation; help them create a safety plan. This plan may include safe places to go, maybe establish a code word or signal for help. Also, keeping in mind the situation of domestic abuse; ensure that they have access to important documents and personal belongings.

Educate Yourself:

It is equally important for you to understand the dynamics of the abuse and abusive situation. Take some time out, and read about it. Maybe meet with domestic violence survivors. All of your efforts can help save a life. When you are educated about it, you will be able to help your friend in it. Learn more about local domestic violence organizations that offer guidance and assistance.

Maintain confidentiality:

If someone has confided in you, it is your due responsibility to respect their privacy by keeping their disclosure confidential. Even if you have a mutual group of friends, do not let anyone know about their issues. Revealing their situation without their permission can break their trust.

Patience is the key:

Recovery from domestic abuse is a long and challenging journey. Be patient and understanding as your friend heals through the process. However,  healing takes time, and they may have setbacks along the way.

Safety First

If you believe your friend is in immediate danger, prioritize their safety by contacting the appropriate authorities. In some cases, calling the police or seeking a restraining order may be necessary.

Wrapping up:

Remember that you can make a  difference in your friend’s life by being a compassionate and supportive presence. How to help a friend who is experiencing domestic violence, is a big question and a responsibility. Your support may empower them to take the necessary steps towards healing and safety. Abusive situations are complex, but with the right guidance and support, your friend can find a path towards recovery and independence.

Lisa Clontz

Author Lisa Clontz

Lisa Clontz is an experienced Executive Director at Shelter Home of Caldwell County, specializing in providing shelter and support services to victims of domestic violence, child support, rape, and sexual assault. With her years of expertise, Lisa passionately assists women and children, helping them access the necessary resources and care they need. Her unwavering commitment to creating a safe environment and empowering survivors has made her an invaluable advocate in the community.

More posts by Lisa Clontz

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