How to Help a Survivor of Domestic Violence

How to Help a Survivor of Domestic Violence



You’ve encountered your friends navigating through difficult times. Being an observer of those close to you going through devastating situations is emotionally painful and even terrifying. Yet, you realize that you’ve got to stay strong so you can be there for your friend.

Perhaps in the past, one of your friends had an abusive partner and you didn’t know what to do to help. The following strategies will enlighten you about how to best help a survivor of domestic violence.

1. Recognize to yourself what you’re feeling about your friends situation and violence. This must be your initial step. Otherwise, your feelings, be they fear, disgust, or anger, will literally present itself to you on to your friend who is calling you because they needs you. And you surely don’t want that to occur.

  • In this way, perceive your feelings and resolve them within yourself before making any efforts to assist your friend.

2. Set yourself up so that your friend who’s been abused might show physical signs of harm. Bruised face, eyes, or arms, cuts on the face, and possibly even broken bones or worse can result from a domestic violence episode.

  • Advise yourself that even though your friend might appear to have been greatly harmed, the fact is that she’s alive, walking, and talking. Also, remember that these physical signs will heal and hopefully not leave scars.

3. Ask a lot of questions that can empower your friend. With asking simple questions first, you can enable your friend begin to re-build a personal sense of empowerment. For example, when you first see her and are walking toward her, ask, “Is it okay if I hug you?” She’ll likely say, “Yes.” You can then state, “I’m so relieved to see you.”

  • Ask her another 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.
  • Rather, pose inquiries that give your friend choices and require her to say either that she wants to answer or she doesn’t. When you do, you’re helping her resume a position of power and choice in her own life.
  • Make yourself available. Your friend may be feeling fear and perplexity about where her life is heading. Let her know how to quickly get in touch with you. Give her all your phone numbers and offer to let her stay with you for a few days if she doesn’t wish to be alone at night.
  • Utilize your own judgment on these issues to perceive whether she’s depending on you too much or not getting better and more self-confident as time goes on.

4. Recommend your friend call a counselor or domestic violence professional/advocate. If you see behaviors or signs in your friend that worry you, bring up the notion of getting some expert assistance.

  • The best way is to use gentle honesty. “I’m worried about you losing so much weight so quickly and you’re crying quite a bit. Have you considered calling a counselor to talk to? It might help you to heal emotionally. I’ll go with you the first time or two, if you want me to.”
  • If your friend refuses to get professional guidance now, try to secure an agreement with her that if she’s not better in a certain period of time (4 weeks, for example), she’ll agree to seek help after that time passes.

5. Check in with your friend routinely. It’s important for her to know that you’re thinking about her and that you “are therefore her in time of need.” Send her texts, give quick phone calls, or even stop by to let her know you’re there for her. She’ll most likely appreciate it and acknowledge you.

Even though you might feel helpless, there are several ways you can help and support a friend who’s a victim of domestic violence. Examine your own feelings initially and be prepared to see signs of abuse against your friend. Ask her empowering questions and be easily accessible.

Ask your friend to consider getting professional assistance if she’s not feeling better and check in with her often. You can be a great support and the best friend ever to those close to you who have experienced domestic violence.


Cice Rivera