Reaching out to a friend, relative, co-worker or acquaintance you suspect is in a domestic violence relationship can be difficult and emotionally challenging. Here are some tips to help start the conversation. For more suggestions and support please call our 24-hour hotline 1-603-994-SAFE (7233)
- Ask direct questions about the situation, gently. Give your friend time to talk. Ask again a few days later. Don’t rush into providing a solution.
- Listen without judging. Your friend, relative or co-worker may believe the abuser’s negative messages. S/he may feel ashamed, inadequate, and afraid of being judged by you.
- Let the person you approach know you care about him/her and that it’s not her/his fault.
- Explain that there’s never an excuse for physical violence in a relationship – not alcohol or drugs, not financial pressure, not depression, not jealousy…..not anything.
- If the person remains in the relationship, continue to be a friend while firmly expressing your concern for her/his safety. Remember that, for many victims, leaving an abusive relationship can take time and may not happen right away.
- Explain that domestic violence is a crime – as much of a crime as robbery or rape – and that victims can seek protection from the police or courts.
- Emphasize that when your friend is ready, she can make a choice to leave the relationship, and that help is available. Also emphasize that domestic violence tends to get worse and becomes more frequent with time, and that it does not go away on its own.
- If your friend has a restraining order, let her know that any contact by the abuser is breaking the law. If she chooses, she can ask the police to arrest the abuser for making contact, especially if there is evidence. Encourage your friend to save letters or e-mail sent from the abuser, or messages left on an answering machine or voice mail, along with the date the contact was made.
- Many battered immigrant victims who have legal immigration status do not know that their batterers cannot take that status away. You should know that if immigrant victims are U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or have a valid visa, they cannot be deported unless they have entered the U.S. on fraudulent documents, violated conditions of their visa, or have been convicted of certain crimes.
Phrases you can use to help:
- I’m afraid for you. Tell your friend that you care and are concerned for her.
- I’m afraid for your children. Children can be harmed by being exposed to battering and at risk of being physically abused also.
- It will only get worse. Statistics show that domestic violence only gets worse and will occur more often over time.
- I’m here for you. Let your friend know you will be there when she or he needs you.
- You don’t deserve to be abused. The abuse is not your friend’s fault.
- It’s not your fault, I believe you. Giving reassuring, non-judgmental messages will make your friend feel empowered and supported.