If you suspect your friend is in an abusive relationship, you probably want to help her or him. Reaching out to your friend can be difficult. You might be afraid of hurting or offending your friend. You might be worried about how the abuser will react if he/she finds out you got involved. You are probably under stress from witnessing your friend’s suffering. You might even want to avoid getting involved because you are worried about your own emotional or physical health. Your feelings are understandable and valid.
If you decide to speak to him/her, keep these suggestions in mind:
1.Ask questions. You might think you know everything about the relationship, but it is important to ask questions so that your friend has a chance to describe the relationship from her/his perspective.
2. Listen without judgment. Allow your friend to say whatever is on her/his mind. Support her/his choices whether or not you agree. Offer your perspective gently and sparingly.
3. Help educate your friend. Both of you can learn more about relationship violence here (link to p.4) and here (link to resources page). Allow your friend to decide which resources make sense for her/his unique situation.
4. Help your friend make a safety plan. Your friend may decide to stay in a violent relationship for reasons you cannot understand. You can still help her/him stay safer by making a safety plan
5. Use nonjudgmental, non-blaming language. Show concern, but do not judge or blame. For example, instead of “you should leave” or “I would never put up with that” say "I'm worried about you."
6. Stay in close contact with your friend. Keep in contact with your friend even if you think it isn’t making a difference. Relationship violence victims often have to try to leave several times before they succeed. Abusers will try to isolate them. Repeatedly let your friend know that you are there for her/him and she/he can always talk with you no matter her/his decisions. Continue contacting your friend no matter how frequently she/he responds. You will serve to be an important connection for your friend.
If you would like any resources or support before, during or after speaking with a friend, please contact Becca Bishopric, Coordinator for Health Promotion – Violence Prevention and Response in Duke 204C or by phone at 336-278-5009 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.