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If Someone You Know is Being Affected By Domestic Violence

How to approach someone you think may be abused:

If someone you know is being abused, they need your support.  They may not ask for it directly, but if you express your concern, it may help them to break the silence and seek assistance.  The victim may be experiencing shame, isolation, embarrassment and denial of the severity of their situation.  Many victims say fear, shame and embarrassment are powerful barriers to their seeking help.  Let the victim know you care and that you are concerned about their safety.  Gently ask direct questions about the person’s situation.  If they do not want to talk, try again another time.  If they disclose information about their situation:

  • Listen to what the person says.  Give the person time and space to talk without interruptions. 
  • Believe what the person says.  Some situations may sound different than anything you may have experienced.  Let the person know that you believe them and that you believe the violence will not go away on its own, but will only get worse.  If you were ever abused, share your experiences; this may help the person feel that they are not alone.
  • Do not blame the victim for the abuse.  Questions like, “What did you do to provoke him?” put the responsibility for the abuse on the victim instead of the person who was abusive.  Explain that they are not alone and that the abuse is not their fault. Explain that there is no excuse for domestic violence.
  • Do not discriminate against the person by judging, blaming, or assuming stereotypes that explain away the abuse.
  • Keep what they tell you confidential.  Shame and embarrassment are barriers for victims seeking assistance, but fear of what the batterer may do to them for telling about the abuse is a deadly risk this victim may be taking to tell you their story.  Keep them safe – don’t talk about it without their permission.
  • Allow the person to make his or her own decisions.  Don’t rush to give opinions or tell the person what to do.  Offer options if you are familiar with options.  If you are not sure about options, help the person seek the assistance of a domestic violence advocate.  Always respect the person’s right to make their own decisions.  The most empowering thing you can do is honor that right.  Whatever you do, do not give up.

What to do if you hear or see an assault in progress:

  • Call 911 and report the incident.  For many reasons, you may not be comfortable calling the police.  If the incident was a burglary, fire, or stranger assault, would you be as uncomfortable?  Domestic violence is an assault on a person that can be deadly.  It is a crime and that makes it your business.
  • Report as many details as possible – parties involved, location, license plate, if weapons are involved.
  • Assess the situation carefully before deciding how to intervene.  These incidents can be dangerous.  You can create attention to the scene by honking your horn or trying to draw a crowd.

Learn more about domestic violence.

  • Contact your local domestic violence program and participate in a volunteer or community training.  Familiarize yourself with the name of the program, what services they offer and how to contact them. (See link to listing of the licensed domestic violence programs in West Virginia.)
  • Read the, “A Safer State of Family, A Handbook for Helpers.”  (see link for Safer State of Family) This booklet details the dynamics of domestic violence and it takes a closer look at how domestic violence effects the lives of traditionally underserved communities (people of color, people with disabilities, people in later life and people in gay and lesbian relationships).  The booklet includes a detailed safety plan to assist a victim of domestic violence with options and decisions when either staying in or leaving an abusive relationship.
  • Check out the Resource/Links on line (see resource/link)  Contact other resources for more specific information or national initiatives.
  • Read “Toolkit to End Violence Against Women” (from the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women and the Violence Against Women Office) to find out about the state of our nation regarding domestic violence.  The tool kit provides concrete guidance to communities, policy leaders and individuals engaged in activities to end violence against women.  For more information, log onto the Violence Against Women website, http://toolkit.ncjrs.org/.  

Help make information available to victims.

  • Give a brochure (see link to publications) to someone you know who may be in need of assistance.  (For additional informational materials, contact your local licensed domestic violence program.)
  • Display brochures or posters in your place of business, community center or other places you think might reach potential victims. 
  • Put stickers with the name and number for the Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE, on stall doors and bathroom mirrors in women’s rooms, hair/nail style salon mirrors, at bus stop benches and shelters, on the handles of shopping carts, at checkout registers or other prominent eye-resting spots.

Safety Planning with Friends, Family, or Co-Workers

To download the article, "Safety Plan for A Friend, Relative, or Co-Worker Who Is Being Abused by an Intimate Partner" by White and Zorza, click here.

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