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Victim's Program

How to Help Someone Who is Being Abused

1. LISTEN WITHOUT JUDGING.
Many victims believe the abuser's negative messages. The victim may feel responsible, ashamed, inadequate and/or afraid. They may be afraid that you will judge them, too. Encourage them to talk about what they are experiencing. Reassure them that you will keep what you are being told private.

2. ASSURE THEM THAT YOU BELIEVE THEM AND THAT YOU ARE TAKING WHAT THEY ARE SAYING SERIOUSLY.
Explain that abuse is a crime and help is available. The victim may be ill, depressed, anxious, or using alcohol or drugs to cope. Encourage them to take care of themselves. Suggest that she talk to a doctor or a counselor who deals with abuse. Never say that they are lucky that it is only verbal or emotional abuse. Recognize that verbal and emotional abuse has as much, if not more, of an impact on overall health and well being as physical violence.

3. DO NOT BLAME THEM OR MAKE EXCUSES FOR THEIR PARTNER.
Abuse is not caused by alcohol, drugs, job loss, or a bad childhood. A family's culture or spiritual beliefs do not cause abuse. Abuse happens in all cultures. Help them to understand that there is no excuse for any form of abuse and that their abuse is not their fault.

4. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW THEY ARE NOT ALONE.
Let them know that you are concerned for their safety and that you want to provide help and support in any way that you can. Remember that you don't have to solve the problem, but you can provide them with information and support. Gather information and resources for them. Look in the phone book for the crisis line, shelter, or victims' services in your area. Let them know that they can go to a victim's shelter.

5. EMPOWER THE VICTIM TO MAKE HIS/HER OWN DECISIONS.
Victims have had their power taken from them in their relationship. They do not need anyone else telling them what to do. Validate their feelings, make suggestions, but let them make their own choices. Ask how you can help.

6. RESPECT THE VICTIM'S DECISIONS AND GIVE SUPPORT.
The victim may not want to leave the relationship, even if you think they should. Many people do not understand how difficult it is to leave an abusive partner. They and their children may lose their home, car, animals, and financial support. They could also be isolated from their cultural community. Understand that abusers often use children or threaten to abduct them if the victim tries to leave. Recognize that identifying abuse is a first step. It may take time for the victim to make changes.

7. HELP THE VICTIM TO RECOGNIZE THEIR STRENGTHS AND BUILD SELF ESTEEM.
Abuse victims demonstrate incredible strength when dealing with everyday demands of life. Self-esteem and self-confidence may have been greatly damaged by their abuse. They may believe that they cannot make it on their own. Encourage the victim to set small realistic goals. This will put them on their first step toward independence.

8. SUGGEST THAT THE VICTIM DEVELOP A SAFETY PLAN.
Safety plans should be set in place and following to ensure the victim remains safe. There are a variety of safety plans covering many situations. The victim is in the best position to know how their partner is likely to react in certain situations. Allow them to decide how they want to handle things.

9. KNOW THAT A VICTIM IS AT MOST RISK FOR BEING KILLED WHEN LEAVING THEIR PARTNER.
Abusive partners can commit physical assault, murder and murder-suicide. Take the situation seriously. If you feel unprepared or inadequate to help your friend, seek advice. Contact a domestic violence program and/or hotline.