Misunderstandings About Domestic Violence–And 5 Ways To Help
Domestic violence can affect anyone, but disproportionately affects women. Therefore, the pronouns chosen for this article reflect the reality that 1 in 4 women may experience domestic violence in their lifetime. However, men and women, gay and straight, young and old can all be victims of domestic violence.
When someone you love is caught in a violent relationship, it’s easy to feel helpless. But according to the co-authors of this article, Alan Hamm and Dr. Stephanie Francis of InterAct of Wake County, there are real and tangible ways to help everyone involved.
Here is a list of the Top 5 ways you can help someone who is in a domestic violence situation. Knowing these tips could allow you to turn someone’s life around someday.
1. Don’t put down the abuser.
Although this may be a natural reaction, refrain from badmouthing your friend’s abuser. Your friend cares for the abuser and calling him every bad name under the sun will just push her into a position of defending him. You make her feel as if it is the two of them against the world. This creates a “Romeo & Juliet” scenario, which may seem romantic, but the consequences may be tragic.
So, what should you do? Try to focus objectively on the actions of the abuser. Discuss the facts – the words he uses, the control he exhibits, the actions he takes against her – and avoid the name-calling and personal dislike of the abuser. One way to approach the situation is to present all of the facts in an unbiased manner and ask “If someone were doing these things to your sister or best friend, what would you say to them?”
2. Be understanding.
It is very easy to get frustrated when your friend makes excuses for the abuser, leaves the relationship and returns, or appears to put up with a lot of abusive behavior. Remember that your friend is trying to figure out how to navigate and survive the situation. Too many victims of domestic violence never reach out to friends and family because they feel they are going to be judged. Be careful not to push your friend away or blame her for the way she is dealing with the relationship. It is okay to be concerned for your friend, but don’t reach out with phrases like “Why don’t you just leave?” Leaving a domestic violence relationship is challenging, both practically and emotionally, so make sure your friend knows that you are always there for her whenever she wants to make that step.
3. Get information.
Most communities have a domestic violence agency with a lot of great information to educate victims of abuse. From safety planning to red flags regarding abusive behaviors, these worksheets and pamphlets can be very helpful in assisting your friend in her efforts to free herself from a destructive relationship. Of course, the internet also has a variety of resources to download and print out.
Many of these are found in conjunction with local, statewide, and national domestic violence agencies. For online information, you can check out the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence, or InterAct here in Wake County. Having these materials or accessing resources from a home computer may be dangerous for your friend if discovered by the abuser. You can offer support by providing a computer or holding on to documents and other information.
4. Connect your friend with the local domestic violence agency.
Although it may be tempting to just drive your friend to a local domestic violence agency whether she wants to go or not, this is not the best approach. Empowerment is the key to change, and your friend will take that step when she is ready. What you can do, however, is supply your friend with information about the local domestic violence agency and stress that these agencies are confidential and concerned for her safety. Give her the number for the local domestic violence crisis line and encourage her to call. She will have the opportunity to talk with a trained advocate in a safe, nonjudgmental, and confidential space. She need not identify herself or her abuser. InterAct’s 24-hour crisis line number is (919) 828-7740 and the national Domestic Violence 24-hour crisis line number is (800) 799-7233.
5. Stay connected.
Abusers will try to isolate their victims from helpful friends or family. This allows the abuser to control resources and information. Friends and family can shed a more objective light on the relationship and on the abusive behavior of the perpetrator. Continue to reach out through e-mail, phone calls, Facebook, or in person to let your friend know that you are there for her.
Additional Information: InterAct is a private, non-profit, United Way agency that provides safety, support, and awareness to victims and survivors of domestic violence and rape/sexual assault. InterAct fulfills this mission through the support of its volunteers and community. Alan Hamm is InterAct’s Crisis Line Coordinator and Dr. Stephanie Francis is InterAct’s Director of Training, Engagement and Prevention.