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Is Someone You Know a Victim of Domestic Violence?
Help for Friends and Family of Victims of Domestic Violence
Stacy has noticed that her sister, Jenna, has repeatedly been declining her invitations to meet up for dinner or even a cup of coffee. Jenna is also reluctant to discuss how things are going at home.
Stacy has noticed a few other things as well. A few weeks before, Stacy asked Jenna about some bruises on Jenna's arms, and Jenna replied, "Oh, they are just from playing with the kids." Also, after speaking with one of Jenna's close friends and co-workers, Stacy discovered that her sister's attitude around work seemed more timid and stressed. Stacy and Jenna's babysitter also told Stacy that Jenna's husband seems constantly agitated and temperamental. The kids had even told the babysitter that their dad can be very scary and sometimes pushes their mom around. Stacy is concerned for Jenna and her children's safety, but she is unsure about how to approach the situation.
What do people like Stacy need to know?
Victims of domestic violence often find it very difficult to leave their abusers. Abusive relationships sometimes leave victims feeling degraded and unworthy of asking for help. However, having friends and family as support can help the victim to overcome the fears associated with leaving his or her abuser. Ultimately, the decision to leave an abusive relationship has to be made by the victim, but there are several ways that you, as a friend or relative, can reach out and help your loved one.
How can you help them?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers several tips on how to help your family member or friend who may be a victim of domestic violence.
- Don't be afraid to let them know that you are concerned for their safety. Help them to recognize the abuse and understand that they deserve a healthier relationship.
- Acknowledge that he or she is in a very difficult and frightening situation. Let them know that they are not at fault and they are not alone.
- Be supportive. Being a good listener is sometimes the best help. It is often difficult to talk about the abuse, so let them know that you are available whenever they may need it.
- Be non-judgmental. The reasons why victims stay with someone abusing them are very complex. Try not to criticize them for making certain decisions, even if you believe their choices are wrong.
- Encourage him or her to do things with you and other friends in order to help them engage in activities outside of their relationship.
- If they leave their abuser, continue to be supportive once they are alone. They may be tempted to go back to his or her abuser and will need your support especially at that time.
- Help them develop a safety plan. Help them think of what they will do when the violence occurs again, gather phone numbers for emergency shelter and advocacy, make a list of items they need for themselves and children, figure out a place they can go if they need to leave quickly.
- Encourage him or her to talk to someone who can provide help and guidance. Offer to help them find a counselor, or, if they are going to court, to the police, or to see a lawyer, offer to go along for support.
- Remember that you cannot "rescue" them. You should be there for support and to help them find their own ways to escape the abuse.
Where can I find more information?
Call the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 500-1119 or visit their website.
Visit the AVON Foundation for Women website to view the Speak Out Against Domestic Violence Videos.
For questions about legal representation, call the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach's Domestic Violence Project at (561) 655-8944 Ext. 238.
IMPORTANT: The information on this Website is not intended as legal advice or representation. No attorney-client relationship is created between the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, Inc. and any person obtaining information from this website. Public benefits and other laws change frequently. We strive to keep this website up to date but cannot provide a guarantee that this information is accurate as of the time you are reading it.