So something has happened that makes you suspect your friend or family member may be suffering from a domestic violence situation.
It can be difficult to accept and even more challenging to know how to navigate these delicate situations, but it’s important to know how to approach this topic with a loved one because it just might change or save their life.
Knowing the right (and safest) way to reach out to your family member or friend and let them know you’re there for them is a bit of an art, one that’s not only incredibly comforting, but is also often a key factor in their journey to seeking professional help.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the best tips and practices for approaching the issue of domestic violence with a friend or family member you suspect may be experiencing it.
The signs of domestic violence
One of the most damaging myths surrounding domestic violence is that it’s only physical abuse.
Domestic violence includes physical abuse, but it is also sexual abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, as well as economic abuse. Abuse of any kind, whether one or several, can take a heavy toll on the individual suffering from it, physically and mentally.
Domestic violence and mental health have long been connected, with the majority of victims of these abuses being at high risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), mild to severe depression, as well as anxiety, insomnia and other short- and long-term symptoms.
Some of the most common signs of domestic violence include:
- Acting timid or afraid
- Going along with everything their partner says or does
- Frequent phone calls and messages that are upsetting
- Speaks of their partner’s temper, jealousy, or controlling behaviors
- “Having” to check in with a partner (such as where they are or who they’re with)
- Being isolated from or turned against friends and family
- Rarely going out in public, or are only seen with their partner
- Acting uncharacteristically depressed, anxious, paranoid or suicidal
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
How to help domestic violence victims
Domestic violence situations can be fragile and even dangerous, which is why it’s important to know exactly how to bring up the topic of abuse with a loved one you’re concerned about.
We’re going to share with you some of the best tips and practices that will help you in this conversation with your friend or family member.
1. Prepare yourself first
Before you get into a conversation with a loved one about a topic as personal as being abused, it’s important to not only prepare yourself for it emotionally and mentally.
Remember not to spend your energy berating or trash-talking the perpetrator; even if you’re angry, they are not what matters in this moment, your loved one is. Remind yourself also, not to put blame on the person you’re worried about. Stay self-aware during the conversation so you can catch yourself in the moment if you find yourself judging or assigning blame.
2. Don’t make it about you
When we get nervous or don’t know what to say, we often (subconsciously) shift the conversation to ourselves because “we” are a topic that’s familiar to us. We also have a tendency to advise people as if they were ourselves, giving them advice and telling them what to do as if we’re in their exact situation.
Keep your focus on your loved one, listen, be empathetic and genuinely be there to support them.
3. Be patient
As much as you might want to grab your friend or family member and carry them off to safety, they’re an adult who has to make their own choices. Leaving an abusive relationship is an incredibly difficult challenge, one that often takes multiple tries before it becomes permanent.
You can let your loved one know that you’re concerned for their safety, that they don’t deserve what they’re experiencing, and that you’re there to help them build a new life — what you can’t do is make the decision for them.
4. Encourage them to seek professional help
If you think you or someone you love is suffering from a domestic violence situation, send us a message.
Mazzitti & Sullivan offers comprehensive counseling services for adults, teens, and children that are designed to treat their mind, body, and soul. We believe that individual-focused, full-spectrum care is the key to true, sustainable healing.
To learn more about how we can help you specifically, call us today.