If you suspect someone you know is in an abusive relationship, what should you do?
Maybe you’ve seen telltale bruises. Maybe your friend appears traumatized. She and her children look neglected.
How can you bring up such a sensitive subject? Will she take offence, will she deny it?
Women who are abused suffer low self esteem and low self confidence. They are often ashamed of what’s happening to them. And are unable to make that first move to seek help.
You, as a friend or community member, must reach out. Make the first move.
Show sympathy and concern
Check on her health. Share a cup of coffee. Help out with little things like baby sitting or shopping. Win her confidence. Make her feel safe.
Even if she is unwilling to talk about her problems, don’t hold back. Express your concern for her safety and well being. Gently get her to realize that she is in a difficult and perhaps dangerous situation. And that she should seek counsel.
Don’t be judgmental, or critical, or force your opinions. There could be so many reasons why she is unable to assert herself. Your support will work best when you give it unconditionally.
A controlling, abusive relationship often blurs the victim’s sense of reality and perspective. Surprisingly, even when the abuse is apparent, she is unable to realize what is being done to her.
What other support can you render?
- If she is physically hurt, accompany her to the hospital or the physician. Advise her to register a complaint with the police.
- Accompany her, if she wants, when she consults a legal professional.
- Offer your address and telephone number for receiving messages.
- Help her draw up a safety plan.
- Learn about domestic violence and the various agencies that can help.
Understand your limitations
Domestic violence is tricky and generally perpetrated behind a screen. There is only so much you can do.
By directly confronting the abuser you could trigger greater violence on the friend you want to help. You could also endanger yourself and your family. Intervene in a violent event only if you can break the momentum, like pressing the doorbell.
Intervention is best left to agencies experienced in handling such situations.
- In cases of emergency, dialing 911 for police intervention is the best way to put a stop to dangerous levels of violence.
- Several agencies deal with domestic violence (such as ASHA). Dialing a helpline will put the survivor in touch with a competent and humanitarian organization. The counseling is always free.
- Community women’s groups play big supportive roles.
Don’t hesitate to call us
ASHA regularly receives enquiries from friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors on behalf of the person who is being abused. Pick up the phone and help a friend.
Reach out! Make a change in somebody’s life.