Six's Ways to Support a Survivor of Domestic Violence

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Six's Ways to Support a Survivor of Domestic Violence

We all would like to believe in our hearts of hearts that when the time comes, we can navigate through challenging times with our loved ones (friends or family). Being an observer of those close to you going through devastating events is emotionally painful and even frightening. Yet, you recognize that you've got to stay strong so you can be there for your loved one. 

I have known one too many women in the past (I, in fact, was one of those women) who had an abusive partner, and at the time, I did not know what I could do to help. The following strategies I hope will help you support a survivor of domestic violence.

  1. Acknowledge what you're feeling about the violence. When we find out someone we love is being hurt, there is a very visceral response. However, your feelings, be they fear, disgust, or anger, will flow out of you and unintentionally project onto your loved one. They need you to be a rock for them, so be sure your emotions are in check before trying to confront someone else. 
    • So, recognize your feelings and resolve them within yourself before making any efforts to help your loved one.
  2. Prepare yourself for the physical signs of harm. Bruised eyes, face, or arms, cuts on the face, and possibly even broken bones or worse can result from a domestic violence incident. 
    • Remind yourself that even though your loved ones might appear to have been greatly harmed, the fact is that they are alive. 
  3. Ask questions that empower your loved one. By asking simple questions first, help your loved one re-build a personal sense of empowerment. For example, when you first see them and are walking toward them, ask, "Is it okay if I hug you?" You could follow up with the more empowering question: "Would you like to talk about it? If so, I'm ready to listen. If not, that's okay, too." Avoid asking probing questions.
    • Instead, ask questions that give your loved one choices and require them to say either that they want to answer or don't. When you do, you're helping them gain a position of power and choice in their own life. 
  4. Make yourself accessible. Your loved one may be feeling fear and confusion about where their life is heading. Let them know how to quickly get in touch with you. Give them all your contact information, and if you can, offer to help to find a safe place to stay. 
    • Give practical help, prayer is nice, but it does not solve a problem. Right now, your loved one needs basic needs met. 
  5. Suggest your loved one receives help from a counselor or domestic violence professional/advocate. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other mental illness can show their face after domestic abuse. It is imperative that a survivor has a safe space to deal with these feelings and emotions. 
    • Don't press the topic, but make sure your loved one knows they are supported if and when they decide they want to talk with someone. 
  6. Check in with your loved one regularly. It's good for someone ending a domestic abuse relationship to have a support system. Loss of friends and family is often the first line of control in domestic abuse. Small things to show you are there are enough like texts, give quick calls, or even stop by after work to show you are there.
Examine your feelings be prepared for signs of abuse.  Ask empowering questions. Be easily accessible. Support loved ones in getting mental health care. Check-in frequently.

Even though you might feel helpless, there are several ways you can help and support a loved one who's surviving domestic violence. Examine your own feelings first and be prepared to see signs of abuse. Ask empowering questions and be easily accessible. Ask your loved one to consider getting professional help and check in with them frequently. You can be a great support for someone who needs it most. Creating a life again after domestic violence can be a challenge, but with support from loved ones, it can be that much easier. 

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