Be quick to listen, slow to speak. And,
always believe survivors.
At some point in your life you will encounter someone who is experiencing domestic violence. When this is someone who you love and care about, like a family member, friend, or colleague, it can be scary and leave you feeling helpless. You’ll likely have lots of questions and feel lots of frustration.
The most important thing you can do to help a survivor is to listen without judgment.
This can be hard to do because as with any interpersonal relationship, things are often seen much more clearly by those outside of the relationship. You may easily identify abusive behaviors and think the answer (e.g., leaving) is simple, but we can assure you that the situation is not as clear cut for the survivor. Judging the survivor’s decisions or trying to force certain actions is counterproductive - the survivor is dealing with control and coercion by their abuser everyday, they don’t need the same from someone trying to help them.
WAYS to support a loved one
Remember, the person who is hurting the survivor is someone that the survivor loves and that love can significantly complicate things.
As can very real, not easily solvable problems like financial instability, concerns related to children, and fear of homelessness.
- Be patient, listen without judgment and believe them
- Remember that the abuser likely works hard to only let you and other outsiders see the good parts of his/her/their personality
- Know survivors may want the abuse to end, not the relationship
- Tell them that the abuse is not their fault, the abuser is choosing his/her/their behavior
- Do not minimize the survivor’s experience or struggle with making decisions OR make your continued support contingent upon the survivor taking certain actions
- Allow the survivor to keep a bag at your house with clothing and important paperwork in case they do need to leave quickly
- Let them know that safe, free, confidential and voluntary services are available through CCADV’s 18 member organizations and Safe Connect when they are ready