Help a Friend
There are a number of things you can do on an emotional and practical level that may help your friend or a family member. It’s important to remember you may not be able to help immediately, your friend or family member may need to think about and absorb what you have to say; they may not recognise themselves as a victim of abuse even.
What might an abused woman be feeling and experiencing?
- She may be overwhelmed by fear – a fear of further violence or threats to her children’s safety
- She often believes that she is to blame and that by changing her behaviour the abuse will stop. Research shows that this is not the case
- She may experience many conflicting emotions. She may love her partner, but hate the violence. She may live in hope that his good side will reappear
- She may be dependent upon her partner, emotionally and financially
- She may feel shame, guilt and embarrassment
- She may feel resigned and hopeless and find it hard to make decisions about her future
What can you do to support her?
- Giver her time to open up. You may have to try several times before she will confide in you
- Try to be direct. Start by saying something like, ‘I’m worried about you because…’ or ‘I’m concerned about your safety…’
- Do not judge her
- Believe her – too often people do not believe a woman when she first discloses abuse
- Reassure her that the abuse is not her fault and that you are there for her
- Don’t tell her to leave or criticise her for staying. Although you may want her to leave, she has to make that decision in her own time
- Focus on supporting her and building up her confidence – acknowledge her strengths and remind her that she is coping well with a challenging and stressful situation
- Abusers often isolate women from friends and family – help her to develop or keep up her outside contacts. This will help boost her self esteem
- Encourage her to contact Jersey Women’s Refuge to talk about what she’s going through with our trained support workers
- Be patient. It can take time for a woman to recognise she is being abused and even longer to make decisions about what to do. Recognising the problem is an important first step
Helping a woman and her children to stay safe
The safety of your friend or loved one – and her children – is paramount. Talk to her about how she can stay safe.
- Agree a code word so that she can signal when she is in danger and needs you to get help
- Encourage her to think about her safety more closely and focus on her own needs
- Offer to keep spare sets of keys or important documents, such as passports, so that she can access them quickly in an emergency
The Women’s Aid website has more useful information on helping a friend or family member.