It can be hard to see someone you love affected by domestic violence, and it’s natural to want to help in any way you can. If you’re concerned about a friend, a family member, or someone you love, and you’re worried that they may be in an unsafe relationship, start by thinking back to what you’ve seen in the relationship. Many people consider only physical violence when they think about an unsafe or potentially unsafe relationship—but physical violence does not have to be present for a relationship to be unhealthy.
An abusive partner might:
- Constantly call or text their partner to ask where they are or who they’re with
- Try to tell their partner who they are and aren’t allowed to talk to
- Control their partner’s finances (take their credit cards, not allow them to work, tell them how to spend money)
- Read their text messages, or sign into their social media accounts to monitor their activity
- Blame them or criticize them, even for things that are out of their control
- Act extremely jealous or possessive (constantly accusing their partner of cheating, not allowing them to go anywhere alone)
How to Help Your Friend
The best thing you can do to help someone you care about is to be supportive. Even though you can’t control whether they stay in the relationship, establishing a support system can help empower someone to reach out for help and sometimes choose to leave when they are ready. You don’t have to be the expert, but let your friend know they can talk with an expert 24/7 by calling our 24-hour hotline at 708-485-5254.
- Ask them how THEY feel in their relationship. You can ask questions like “Are you getting what you want out of this relationship?” or “What do you want in a partner?” to encourage them to open up.
- Tell them what you’re concerned about. Try to bring up the specific behaviors that seem unhealthy. Instead of saying “I think you’re in an abusive relationship”, focus on a specific behavior that their partner does. Saying something like “I’ve noticed that she always wants to read your texts”, or “It seems like he doesn’t let you go anywhere without him” can be a better way to let them know you’re concerned.
- Be understanding. A common assumption is that someone in an abusive relationship can easily end it and leave. This may not always be the case. It takes a lot of courage to leave an unsafe situation, and the person in the relationship may not be ready to do it right away. Leaving an abusive partner is the most dangerous time in the relationship, and leaving safely often requires preparation and planning. Continue to offer support until that time comes. They know their relationship best, and they will leave when they feel ready to.
- Believe them. Many survivors of domestic abuse are afraid to tell someone what they’re experiencing; perhaps they worry nobody will believe them. An abusive partner might even use that fear to control or manipulate someone into staying in the relationship. Saying “I believe you” can be reassuring to someone who needs support.
If you need help or would like to talk to someone about your options, call our 24-hour hotline at 708-485-5254. You are not alone. Click here to learn more about our services and what resources are available to you.
How to Help Your Community
In addition to being a support system for people in your life, there are also ways you can be an ally in your community.
See something, say something. You can still provide support to someone who may need it, even if you don’t know them personally. Bystander intervention is the term used to describe intervening in a situation that may seem unsafe or problematic for the people involved. This could be something as simple as striking up a conversation with someone who may seem uncomfortable with the person they’re sitting next to on the bus, or it could be something like helping to diffuse an argument in a public place. Many people who witness these types of situations choose not to intervene because they don’t know what to do or don’t want to make the situation worse, but bystander intervention can be an effective way to help someone who may need it.
Note: While bystander intervention is often effective in diffusing a situation, the goal is to redirect, not create a more dangerous situation. There may be times when it’s better to call for help. If someone has a weapon or implies that they intend to hurt themselves or someone else, call 911.
Volunteer. If you want to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence in your community, consider volunteering. Pillars Community Health has many different volunteer opportunities available in our Domestic and Sexual Violence program. Volunteers assist with taking calls to our 24-hour hotline, assisting with responsibilities at our shelter, and more. Click here to learn more about volunteering.
Get involved in your college or university. As part of our outreach efforts, Pillars Community Health partners with local area colleges and universities to address dating violence and sexual abuse on college campuses by challenging stereotypes and implementing allyship programs. If you would like to learn more about our work with colleges or would like to bring this to your college or university, contact us.