How To Help A Domestic Abuse Victim

How can you, a person outside of your loved one’s abusive relationship, help her in any way? Is it possible to figure out how to help a domestic abuse victim?

  • Is it possible to force her abuser to behave differently? Can you turn the tables and beat him down for a lasting effect? Nope.
  • Is it possible to force her to leave the abusive relationship? Not without her consent.
  • Is it possible to convince her she’s being abused? Maybe, but until she’s unwilling to put up with it anymore, she is willing to live with it and must live with the consequences of her decision.

So, how can you help a domestic abuse victim?

First, Take Care of Your Self!

You can harm your health by helping an abuse victim. The more often you “help”, the more often she may return. The more often she returns, the more helpless, drained and used you may feel. It can take several attempts before a victim finally leaves the abusive partner, no matter how much you are willing to help.

Sometimes by helping the victim of abuse, you invite her abuser into your life. Do you want to deal with an abuser in your life?! We abuse victims do not intentionally take advantage of those of you who love us and want to help us. But it happens. How many times have you felt used by the victim you’re trying to help?

The best thing you can do for an abuse victim is take care of your self. Make sure you are leading a healthy life. Start by learning how to set personal boundaries to help you deal with your beloved abuse victim. After you’ve insulated your self from the negative energies created by abuse, then think about other ways you can help without drawing the abuse to you.

Second, Be There For Your Loved One

Believe her. Many domestic abuse victims reach out for help one time. When she opens up to you, believe her, no matter how charming you think her partner to be. There is time for questioning later. For now, just believe her.

Listen to her vent without offering solutions. This will be hard. You will want to tell her what to do because she seems so confused, ill-informed, or lost. Keep your mouth shut. That’s what listening means.

Tell her you think she’s being abused. Give her a pamphlet or show her a web site. Tell her you’re concerned, be honest about your fears. Don’t argue with her if she says you’re crazy. Just smile and say, “Maybe I am…but I am also here for you when you’ve had enough.”

Make a list of her wonderful characteristics and qualities. Keep this list handy so you can remind her of how great she is when she calls or is hurting from what her abuser said.  When you are able to quickly tell her why you love her, the sentiment has more power. For example, “Oh, Vicky, I love you so much. Your compassion for others amazes me!” Or, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, sweet heart. Remember I love you and know I can trust you.”

Do not to judge her. She is not stupid or insane; if anything, she may be brainwashed by her abuser and/or suffer under the cumulative side-effects of abuse. As much as she believes you, she disbelieves in herself. My Abusive Marriage…and what I’m doing in it will help you understand her turmoil. There is a way out, but she has to be the one to start looking for it.

As you’re probably already aware, sometimes she knows and says that there’s something wrong. Sometimes she’ll even want to leave her abuser and come to you for help. But how many times has she asked for your help and then turned it down last-minute? Or done what you’ve advised but come back angry at YOU for suggesting it? Or made an excuse for her abuser saying that you can’t possibly understand how much he loves her or she loves him?

Third, have information on hand for her to read or use when she opens up to you about the abuse.

Keep the number for domestic abuse hotlines handy. You could call a hotline if she comes over and doesn’t know what to do. You can call the hotlines to get answers to help you deal with her situation, to vent about how helpless or angry you feel, and to speak to someone who really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to abusive relationships.

Research how to recognize the subtle forms of mental, emotional and verbal abuse so you can share knowledge when possible. I put together a worksheet to help recognize abuse in relationships (download it here). You can also check youtube for videos about people’s experience with abuse (check verbalabusejournal), read stories about abuse or the book, My Abusive Marriage…and what i’m doing in it to get a full picture of the formidable enemy your loved one fights.

Print or get a safety plan from a domestic abuse help center. You can give it to her or show it to her and let her know you have it and will help her fill it out. We have a great safety plan here on Verbal Abuse Journals. You can download it hereIf she devises her own plan to deal with abuse, then help her execute it if she asks. Help if and only if you’re willing to do what she’s asking you to do! Don’t say you will help but harbor resentment for it. If you think you’ll be resentful, tell her no, but help her to find a different solution if you can.

You could share your information with her through social networks or email. But please be careful with this! Her abuser could have access to her personal accounts. Abusers often stalk their victims even when they live in the same house! “Getting her into trouble” with her abuser causes more stress and possible abuse for your loved one and could push them further away from you! Make sure your friend wants your help before flooding them with it.

Remember that the only one who can end the abuse is the victim of the abuse. You cannot help her with that in any way. She must do it for herself.

Photo: Andrew Robles


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  1. This is an outstanding site loaded with information..

  2. Wonderful! I wish I had read it earlier. My best friend is in an abusive relationship and I fear I have jeapordized our relationship due to my impatience and lack of understandin. However, hopefully she will respond to my efforts to reach out to her and to be there for her. And I am certain that the advice written here is effective, and altho it is hard for me to do nothin, I am oin to follow the advice above.
    thank you very much. This is what I was lookin for for weeks. Unfortunately I have found it after I opened my yap, but I hope I can correct the fracture I created. Because my friend really needs someone she can count on, and I am that person. and I need her friendship too.

  3. update,and thanks:
    my friend who is in the abusive relationship is back in touch with me. so glad! I have assured her that I will not offer any opinions unless asked. Hard for me not to make a comment, but that is how it must be. I will be her friend and continue to hope that she sees the light.
    Your posts, as well as the education I gave myself on emotional/verbal abuse, as well as the posts of survivors, and of people in the situation who have been brave enough to share –all of this has helped me so much.
    also, now that I am in the situation, altho 2nd hand – I see that there does not seem to be much conversation about abusive relationships in the media, even tho I beleive it is more widespread than most realize. You are doing a great service.

  4. My friends are leaving me. In order to protect me from her jealousy. To give me time to fix my marriage.

    I’m begging them not to leave, that it’s the worst possible thing they could do for me at this point, but they’re leaving. Even when they say they believe me, and it’s horrible, they still think the best plan is a hearty pat on the back and a ‘good luck, Chuck! Let me know how it turns out!’ and I don’t know how I can get anyone to believe me. They don’t trust me – they call me crazy, tell me to get help, say that I’m being overdramatic.

    My family doesn’t believe me, they’re all convinced I’ll do or say anything to make myself feel better about something I already want to do. Which I don’t. But I think I need to. But I’m afraid to.

    I feel like the only choices I have are staying put in a life that will destroy me, or destroy my life. And that’s a terrible mental place to make decisions from.

    • It feels for all the world that your life will fall apart if you leave. Your “friends” are already showing you how much support they will be (none) and I’ll bet your wife is enjoying watching them go. She’s better able to isolate and control you without them around. Your problem is choosing between the devil you know and the devil you don’t. There is no way to know what will happen if you leave her – but my money is on the idea that sooner rather than later you will find yourself living a new life of freedom (without remorse or guilt) and finding new friends who have been through the same trauma as you.

      Sometimes men don’t want to talk about “these things” and that is a pity. If you would like to speak with a man named Don who mentors for Verbal Abuse Journals, fill out the form here: Make sure you request a Male mentor. Don knows all about what you’re going through and I’m sure he could help you tremendously.

  5. My daughter is in an abusive marriage, but as yet she doesn’t know it. They are seperated at them moment but she desperatley wants to get back with him. He is still in close contact and continuing to verbally abuse her. So much so that she took an overdose a couple of days ago. She is ok but still not admitting that he is the problem. We are desperate for advice as how to counsell her, terriffied that she will do the same again. The advice here helps a bit but I am out of my mind with worry. I cant bear the thought of losing her

  6. Men are also verbally abused so it’s not a female exclusive problem. I am an older peson having the heartache of watching from a distance and have no idea how to help except having my listening ears on. Very stressful.

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