How to Support a
Victim of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence (battering) is a pattern of abusive and
coercive behavior used to gain dominance, power, and control over an intimate
partner. It includes the use of illegal
and legal behaviors and tactics that undermine the victimís sense of self, free
will, and safety. Battering behavior can
impact other family members and can be used in other family relationships.
Domestic violence crosses all class, race, lifestyle, and
religious lines. The only clear
distinction is gender. Most victims of
domestic violence are women, and most perpetrators of domestic violence are
men. According to the National Institute
of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bureau of
Justice Statistics, women are at significantly greater risk of domestic
violence than men. Many academic leaders
have identified domestic violence as a major criminal justice, health care, and
Is someone you
know a victim?
Do you suspect that a woman you know is being emotionally
or physically abused? If you can answer
yes to some of the following questions, it is likely that you are right.
Do you see or hear about repeated bruises,
broken bones, or other injuries?
Does her partner criticize her in front of you
or make ďjokingĒ remarks that belittle her?
Is her partner overly jealous, ďattentiveĒ, or
demanding of her time?
When you leave a message for her with her
partner, does she get the message?
Are you ever afraid of her partner?
Does she refer to his bad moods, anger, temper,
or short fuse?
Does he ignore the children of abuse them
emotionally, physically, or sexually?
Have there been suicide or homicide attempts or
threats in this family?
Is her partner accusing her of having affairs
with other people?
Does her partner try to control her every move?
Must she account for her time?
Does she speak of her partner as though he is
far more important than she is?
Is she often late or absent from work, or has
she quit her job altogether?
Does she break appointments at the last minute
or fail to show up?
What do you
The hardest part about talking to a friend or family
member who is a victim of domestic violence is getting started. You can help a woman by keeping her story
confidential. While you might feel that
it would be helpful to tell others about her situation, telling others can in
fact put her and her children in serious danger. Additionally, while you may want to tell her
to leave, leaving is often the most dangerous time in an abusive
relationship. Consult your local sexual
and domestic violence program for additional information on safety planning.
When she tells her story, listen attentively. Donít blame her for the abuse. Donít interrupt. Donít let your facial expression or body
language convey doubt or judgment of what she is saying. Your support and belief in her may be
critical in her safety and healing.
Remember: If she refuses to talk to you, she has her
reasons. Express your concern for her
anyway. Tell her that emotional,
physical, and sexual abuse are wrong and that she deserves to be safe. Assure her that you will be ready to talk or
help, if she asks.
How to start
Seek out a private, quiet place to begin talking. Allow plenty of time to talk at length. You may be the first person that she has told
about the abuse. Any of the following
questions might help get the conversation started.
You seem so unhappy. Do you want to talk about it? Iíd like to listen and Iíll keep it between
I couldnít help but hear your argument last
night, and I was worried about you. Are
you okay? Were you hurt?
What is it like at home for you?
What happens when you and your partner disagree
How does your partner handle things when he doesnít
get his way?
Are you ever scared or your partner? Does he
Does your partner ever follow you? Do you have to account to him for your time?
Does your partner ever prevent you from doing
things you want to do?
Is your partner jealous, hard to please,
irritable, demanding, or critical?
Does your partner ever push you around or hit
Does your partner ever put you down, call you
names, yell at you, or punish you in any way?
Does your partner ever make you have sex? Does he ever make you do sexual things that
you donít like?
What do you do
Acknowledge the courage she showed in talking to
you. She has taken a risk in confiding
Let her know that you consider her feelings of
fear, confusion, anger, sadness, guilt, numbness, helplessness, or hopelessness
are reasonable and normal.
Avoid treating her like a child or helpless
Respect her pace and be patient.
Support the decisions she make for herself.
Help her make plans, but let her make the decisions.
Educate yourself about the dynamics of domestic
violence. Call your local sexual and
domestic program for information about services available and basic information
about domestic violence.
Explain that domestic violence can be a crime
and that she can seek protection from the criminal justice system.
Explain that she and her children have a right
to safety and happiness.
Make sure she knows that she is not alone. Women from every ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic
group suffer from abuse, and many find it difficult to leave.
Emphasize that when she is ready, she can make a
choice to leave the relationship and that there is help available.
Provide her with information about local
resources: the phone number of the local domestic violence hotline, support
groups, counseling, shelter programs, and legal advocacy.
If she wants to go to an agency or sexual and
domestic violence program, volunteer to go with her.
If you see or hear an assault in progress, call
the police. These assaults are often
dangerous to outsiders; do not intervene yourself.
She may need financial assistance, help finding
a place to live, a place to store her belongings, or help in caring for
pets. She may need assistance to
escape. Decide if you feel comfortable
helping her out in these ways.
If she remains in the relationship, continue to
be her friend while at the same time firmly communicating to her that she and
her children do not deserve to be treated abusively.
With her permission, enlist other friends,
family or co-workers to help with child care or to go with her to court.
The sexual and domestic violence program nearest you click here to see map.
This information was obtained from the Kansas Coalition against Sexual and Domestic Violence (KCSDV) brochure titled
How to Support a Victim of Domestic Violence.