It’s important to remember that you can’t “rescue” your friend from an abusive relationship. Although it is hard to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person being hurt needs to be the one who decides to do something about it. It’s important to support and help her* find a way to safety.
Here are some easy ways to help start the conversation:
Offer support without judgment or criticism. There are many reasons why a victim may stay in an abusive relationship. And, many reasons why she might leave and return to the relationship many times. Let her know it’s not her fault and that she’s not alone. Respect her decisions, even when you don’t agree. Do not criticize or make her feel guilty – she needs you to be helpful, not hurtful.
- “It’s not your fault he treats you that way.”
- “I know this is difficult to discuss, but please know you can talk to me about anything.”
- “You are not alone. I care about you and I’m here for you, no matter what.
- “You are not responsible for his behavior.”
- “No matter what you did, you do not deserve this.”
- “I see what is going on with you and _______ and I want to help.”
- “You don’t deserve to be treated that way. Good husbands and partners don’t say or do those kinds of things.”
- “The way he treats you is wrong. Men should never hit or threaten the women they love.”
- “I’m worried about your safety and am afraid he’ll really hurt you next time.”
- “Please know that if you need to talk, you can always come to me.”
- “I’m here to help and am always available, even if you don’t want to talk about it now.”
- “Remember, you’re not alone – I am here for you when you’re ready to talk about it.”
- “I want to help. What can I do to support you?”
- “How can I help protect your safety?”
- “Here is the number to our local domestic violence agency. They can help provide shelter, counseling or support groups.”
- You could also add: “They offer services to help you understand the legal system, access community resources, relocate or get support for your children.”
- “Let’s develop a safety plan.”
- “If you need to go to the police [or court or a lawyer], I can go with you to offer support.”
*National statistics show that domestic violence primarily impacts women. Feminine pronouns are used in this document when referring to victims of domestic violence and masculine pronouns are used when referring to perpetrators. We are using gender-specific pronouns to keep the writing simple and clear, but we recognize that the issue is not a simple one. Sometimes the perpetrator will be female while the victim will be male. And, domestic violence can happen in same sex relationships as well.