For Your Friend

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Appropriately and effectively responding to a friend or loved one who is being abused requires the following:

  • Understanding why survivor stays;
  • Empathizing with the survivor;
  • Putting your personal views, attitudes and prejudices aside;
  • Looking at the whole picture;
  • Paying attention and listening to the survivor;
  • Knowing where the survivor can get help;
  • Connecting the survivor to the right people.

The following sections in this page will guide you when helping your friend or loved one.

Why She Stays

Abusers use the tactics on the Power & Control Wheel to literally trap survivors in a relationship:

Survivor might hear things like:

  • “It’s your fault I act this way!”
  • “I will find you wherever you go!”
  • “I will kill you/children/pet/myself if you leave me!”
  • “I will change and it will never happen again!”

Survivor might experience:

  • Seeing abuser handling guns, bullets, knives, etc.;
  • Having keys to car taken away;
  • Having phone calls screened;
  • No access to money.

The abuser instills a sense of fear in the survivor:

  • Fear of losing children;
  • Fear of being alone or isolated;
  • Fear of becoming homeless.

There are barriers that prevent the survivor from leaving:

  • Financial barriers;
  • Emotional barriers;
  • Religious barriers.

The survivor may still be in love with the abuser.

Remember! Leaving does not happen in just one step, it is a process. Staying may be safer than leaving!

What Do I Say?

By now, you believe your friend or loved one needs help. Following these simple pointers will help to guide your conversation.

First, discussions with a loved one about domestic abuse should always be planned – do not bring it up spontaneously. The following phrases may help you open your conversation:

  • I’m worried about you
  • What is it like for you?
  • You don’t deserve this.
  • You’re in a tough situation.
  • You’re a strong person.

Do not argue with the survivor if s/he minimizes the abuse. Instead, talk about your perceptions of the situation and listen to hers/his. Use specific examples about why you are worried about the person; things you have witnessed or heard yourself.

Be careful not to drive away the survivor. But, if the survivor turns away from the conversation, be there if and when s/he comes back. The conversation will stick in her/his memory and s/he will come back to you when s/he needs help.

If the survivor:

  • Defends the abuser: back off now, but keep in contact.
  • Trashes the abuser: do not jump to agreement – the survivor may return to the abuser in the future and remember your harsh words, possibly causing the survivor to push you away.

Please view our Emergency Shelter and Legal Advocacy Videos to learn about the resources available to help your friend or loved one.

How Do I Help?

There are some general principles that enable you to help your friend or loved one who is experiencing domestic abuse:

  • Understand that abusers tend to devalue and control their partner’s perceptions of reality;
  • Recognize that survivors may not realize they are in danger;
  • Believe survivor and take the abuse accusations seriously;
  • Remain neutral and do not take sides;
  • Respect the survivor’s decisions and do not judge her/him;
  • Control yourself, not the survivor. You are responsible for the energy you bring to the conversation;
  • The best thing you can do is give the survivor contact information for a local domestic abuse advocate or a national center;
  • Call a hotline with the survivor or suggest they call when they are alone and safe.
    1. Harbor House Hotline: 407-886-2856
      Florida Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-500-1119
      National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Please view our Emergency Shelter and Legal Advocacy Videos to learn about the resources available to help your friend or loved one.

How Do I Stay Safe?

The best way for you and the survivor to stay safe is to take immediate action – this does not necessarily mean leaving the abuser!

  • Ask the survivor what s/he needs at that point in time, don’t assume you know;
  • Call an advocate while you are with the survivor so that s/he can speak with the advocate and safety-plan;
  • Hand the survivor a cell phone s/he can use in emergencies;
  • Give the survivor the hotline number.
    1. Harbor House Hotline: 407-886-2856
      Florida Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-500-1119
      National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Please view our Emergency Shelter and Legal Advocacy Videos to learn about the resources available to help your friend or loved one.


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