How You Can Help: a Guide for Family and Friends

Posted on May 16, 2018

If someone you know may be a victim of domestic violence, there are safe ways that you can help.

Become Informed

Contact programs and services in your area that assist victims of domestic violence. These programs (like Children’s Home Shelter for Family Safety) not only offer safety to victims, but also provide advocacy, support, and other services.

Sometimes your own feelings about the violence may make it difficult for you to confront the situation. You can call our crisis hotline at 1-888-378-7398 and talk with our staff about your concerns. Our advocates can be an excellent source of support for both you and your friend.

Lend a Sympathetic Ear

Letting your friend know that you care and are willing to listen may be the best help you can offer. Don't force the issue, but allow her to confide in you at her own pace. Keep an open mind and really listen to what you are told. Never blame her for what is happening or underestimate her fear of potential danger.

Remember that your friend must make her own decisions. Focus on supporting her right to make her own choices. Tell her you are there for her when she needs you. Provide whatever you can: transportation, child care, financial assistance, etc.

Guide Her to Community Services

Let her know she is not alone and that caring people are available to help her. Encourage her to seek the assistance advocates at Children’s Home Shelter for Family Safety or your local domestic violence hotline or program. Assure her that any information she shares with them will be kept strictly confidential.

Many victims of domestic violence first seek the advice of marriage counselors, psychiatrists, or members of the clergy. Not all helping professionals, however, are fully aware of the special circumstances of abused women. If the first person she contacts is not helpful, she should be encouraged to find assistance elsewhere.

Focus on Her Strengths

Victims of domestic violence live with emotional as well as physical abuse. Your friend is probably continually told by the abuser that she is a bad woman, a bad wife, and a bad mother. Without positive reinforcement from outside the home, she may begin to believe she can’t do anything right; that there really is something wrong with her.

Give her the emotional support she needs to believe that she is a good person. Help her examine her strengths and skills. Emphasize that she deserves a life that is free from violence.

Confront Her With the Danger

At some point, you may find it difficult to be supportive of your friend if she remains in the violent relationship or returns to the abuser after a temporary separation. Let her know that not everyone lives with abuse. Be willing to confront her with the physical and emotional harm that she and her children will suffer if she stays. Help your friend acknowledge the dangerous reality of living with an abusive partner. Remind her that even a push or a shove can result in serious injury.

Help Her Develop A Safety Plan

Encourage your friend to develop a plan to protect herself and her children. Help her think through the steps she should take if her partner becomes abusive again. Click here for help in developing a safety plan.

If She Decides to Leave

The first safe place your friend should contact is Children’s Home Shelter for Family Safety or your local domestic violence shelter. Shelter workers can help her examine her options. If she decides to leave, a shelter may be the safest place she can go.

Be very careful when offering and providing safety in your home. Victims of domestic violence frequently are in the most danger when she attempts to flee. Be very discreet and talk to domestic violence program staff about the best way to handle this.

When to Intervene

It cannot be overemphasized that domestic violence is a crime that can result in serious physical injury and even death. If you are a neighbor or otherwise know that a domestic violence incident is occurring, call the police immediately. Calling the police does not always mean the abuser will be put in jail. It is simply the most effective way to protect the victim and any children from immediate harm.

How to Find Help

  • Contact Children’s Home Shelter for Family Safety at 605-338-4880, our crisis hotline at 1-888-378-7398, or visit us.
  • Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

This information was provided by the National Woman Abuse Prevention Project.