HELP for family & friends


Things to Know

  1. Avoid telling the victim that she needs to leave; instead discuss a safety plan.
  2. Don’t personally criticize the abuser, this may make her feel she has to defend him.
  3. Listen to everything she tells you, this will allow you to back up her story with law enforcement if needed.
  4. Assure her that you will keep all that she shares confidential. 
  5. Ask her what the situation is like for her, listen as she shares details of abuser’s patterns of behavior.
  6. Let her know that:
    • You are concerned for her safety.
    • You are concerned for the safety of her children.
    • This is not her fault; no one deserves to be abused.
    • Even if her abuser apologizes, it does not mean he will stop abusing her.
    • Alcohol does not cause abuse; many alcoholics never abuse, and most abusive alcoholics who stop drinking continue to abuse.
    • There is a good chance the abuse will only get worse.
    • She is not alone; you will be there to help her, or to help her find others who can help her.
    • Suggest a code word for her to use to have you call the police (or pick up her children from school).
  7. Let her know that abusers usually snoop on their victims to learn what they are doing and who is supporting them. He may check her car to see how many miles she has driven, and/ or check her phone or computer for messages and contacts.
  8. Let her know that her abuser will most likely try to isolate her from anyone who is supportive of her (including her children and extended family). Common tactics are to disparage one to the other.
  9. Let her know that women who are abused by their male partners are three times as likely to get infected with HIV. She may want to get tested for HIV.
  10. If it is safe for you to do so, offer to store some emergency things in your home in case she (and, ideally, her children) need to leave quickly. These should include the abuser’s driver’s license number, car registration and workplace address (often needed to register an order of protection), and his and her financial data (credit cards, bank accounts, insurance policies), her and her children’s essential documents, emergency and important phone numbers, prescription information (and/or an emergency supply of medications), and her children’s immunization records. It should also include information about any firearms owned by the abuser or stored in the home. See Safety Plan. 
  11. If she has children:
    1. Let her know that, unless she has court permission to relocate, she may lose custody if she flees with the children to another state. She should work with domestic violence advocates or a lawyer if she plans to leave the state with the children.
    2. Let her know that if she leaves without one or more of her children and wants custody of them or to protect them, she should talk to a lawyer or domestic violence advocate about getting an order of protection and/or custody order.
    3. She, you or somebody should tell the children that abuse is wrong.
    4. She, you or somebody should teach the children that they should never get in the middle when one parent is abusing the other, that they should go somewhere where they will be safe and, if they can do so safely, call the police.
    5. She, you or somebody should teach the children how to call the police for help, how to give their name, the address where they are calling from, and a brief explanation of why help is needed (e.g., daddy is beating up mommy).
  12. Encourage the victim to document everything that happened, including an accurate account of how she was injured. Suggest that she get medical treatment.
  13. If she has injuries, ask her if you can take pictures of them to keep at your home or other safe place. Date the pictures and keep them with notes about when, where and how she got the injuries.
  14. Document all the dates and times that you see injuries on the victim, even if she denies he caused her injuries. The victim may have gone to the hospital but was too ashamed to tell you.
  15. If the abuser has destroyed or damaged household property, with her permission, you or somebody else take pictures of the damage. Store the pictures in a safe place with the date, time and description of what each picture shows so she can use them in court if she wants.
  16. Tell her about her local domestic violence programs
  17. If she is going to leave her abuser, tell her not to tell her abuser or anyone who might tell him in advance.
  18. Offer her a safe place or help her find one.
  19. If the victim leaves the relationship, do not disclose her location, especially to mutual friends or family members of the abuser.
  20. If the victim is suicidal this is an indication of just how desperate she feels; she needs immediate help.