It can be challenging to understand how you can provide support when someone you know is experiencing sexual or domestic violence, stalking, or human trafficking. As a secondary survivor, Albion’s staff can guide you with information and support that allows you to impact and empower those in your life positively.
How You Can Help
If someone you love is experiencing abuse, it can be challenging to know what to do. You want to “save” them from the relationship, but it isn’t that easy. An individual may stay in an abusive relationship for many reasons, and leaving can be a very dangerous time. One of the most important things to remember is that abuse is about power and control, so consider how you might empower your loved one to make their own decision.
If You Suspect Abuse
If you worry that someone you care about is experiencing abuse, there are steps that you can take to help. Take time to consider their emotions, privacy, and safety. Approach them at a time and place that is safe and confidential and start by expressing concern. Allow them space they speak as you listen and communicate that you care about their safety, they do not deserve to be hurt, and that you understand it is not their fault.
Individuals experiencing abuse may be upset, depressed, confused, or scared. Let them know that these are normal feelings, and they are not crazy. An abuser may be tearing down their self-esteem and letting them know that you think they are smart, strong, and brave can help.
Be patient and understand that self-empowerment can take time. Encourage them to build a support system and connect them with resources.
If a Loved One Discloses Their Abuse
Disclosing abuse takes bravery and can come as a shock to anyone who may or may not suspect abuse. One of the most important things to remember is that your reactions can have positive or adverse effects. Despite the shock you may be feeling, it is important to be non-judgemental and supportive, avoiding questions or comments that may lead the individual to feel you do not believe them (IE: “Are you sure that’s what he meant?” or “I would never believe they could do such a thing.”). Acknowledge that they are in a scary and challenging situation, offer to help them safety plan, and be supportive no matter if they decide to stay in the relationship or end it.
Things to Avoid
Even with the best of intent, remain self-aware, and understand that your reactions and words can have a negative impact. Individuals experiencing abuse may already be experiencing emotional abuse. Do not accuse, diagnose, or judge their choices; do not jump to conclusions regarding their experiences or feelings; and do not criticize the abuser. Providing support means that you do not pressure your friend to leave the relationship and respect that there may be reasons they choose to stay. Their abuser may control their finances, isolate them from friends and family, or make threats to harm them or their loved ones.