When someone you care about is being abused or is in family abuse, it hurts you too. It is hard to know what to do and say.
Safety is the First Priority
If they have been physically abused:
- Offer to go with them to the doctor’s office.
- Ask if they wish to report the assault to the City Police or RCMP; if so, offer to accompany them or call Envision to arrange for an escort.
- Find out if the children have been hurt, if so, they too should receive medical attention. The Ministry of Social Services and/or the police must also be notified.
- Help them to find a safe place to stay.
Taking Care of Yourself
Helping a friend who is in an abusive relationship is often stressful and can be dangerous. You need to look after your own physical and emotional well-being.
- Never confront the abuser. That could make things worse.
- Talk with someone about your feelings, fears, frustrations and reactions to the family abuse. Envision often assists individuals whose friends and family members are being abused. You can do this without identifying the person you care about.
Remember: There are no simple, easy solutions. If you know someone who is hurting, don’t ignore the abuse – or the person.
Allow the Person to Make Their Own Decisions
A person who has been abused may come to believe that they have no control in their life and no ability to make decisions. To help the person feel more confident and regain control:
- Let them know that there are no simple solutions but that change is possible. The first step is to look after their safety.
- Point out different options available and help them to evaluate each one.
- Allow them to decide which option is best. Even if you strongly disagree, remember that it’s their life, not yours.
- Let them know that you will stand by them no matter what they decide.
Remember: Don’t give up on them just because the decisions they make are different from the ones you might make. It does not mean they do not want or need your support.
If You Suspect Abuse
Some people may suspect that abuse is happening in a friend or family member’s relationship, but do not know what to look for. Others are fearful of getting involved because they do not know what to do if the person tells about abuse in their relationship. When someone you care about is being abused, it hurts you too. It is hard to know what to do and say. If you think someone you know is being abused, ask yourself these questions:
- Are they reluctant to talk about why they are sad, anxious or depressed?
- Are they drinking more or taking pills to calm their nerves?
- Do they have any visible physical injuries?
- Do they to avoid you when you meet on the street? Do they try to cut your time together short?
- Do they make excuses at the last minute why they cannot visit you? Or, have they stopped seeing you completely?
If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions, you have reason to be concerned. The only way to know for sure is to ask the person if they are being or have been abused by their partner – sexually, emotionally, physically and/or verbally. Remember: If someone is being abused by their partner, they may feel embarrassed, ashamed and alone. By asking questions, you help break the silence. This may be the first step towards ending the abuse and the person you care about getting help.
- Let them know that you believe what they have told you – chances are the situation is worse than they are letting on. Abuse often occurs more than once.
- Encourage, but do not pressure, them to talk about the violence. Allow them to say as much or as little as they want.
- Offer to accompany them to the police station or to Envision, or any other place they are reluctant to go. Your presence will help them to be strong and will show in ways that words can never do, that they are not alone.
- No matter how tempting it is to criticize their partner, stop yourself. Most people love their partners and want the abuse to stop but want the relationship to continue.
- Focus on the changes you see in them, not the relationship.
Increase Your Knowledge
- Find out all you can about partner abuse by contacting someone who has information on the topic. Libraries often have wonderful resources.
- Make a list of phone numbers of agencies and individual who can offer services.
Remember: The better informed you are, the better you will be able to help. You can also try our Helpful Websites page for more information.