We all imagine love to be something out of a fairy-tale… Something good and pure that we all crave to have, growing up. But, love isn’t always a pretty picture. Love sometimes can be painful, and for some, it is literally how they describe love in their reality.
The thought of someone we know being in an abusive relationship is not an image anybody can bear to imagine. The pain they have to go through, the anxiety of being cautious for what could happen, and for some… thinking if they’d still be alive tomorrow. But, how can we know for sure if someone we know might be in an abusive relationship?
The Warning Signs of Abuse
As people from the outside, it’s impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors. It would be different to spot and experienced firsthand the tell-tale sign of abuse. However, there are some signs that tell things are a little off, without the victim speaking out vaguely.
Some of the example of signs that people who are being abused show…
- Often checks in with their partner of their whereabouts
- Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
- Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions without explanation
- Rarely go out in public without their partner
- Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car
We’ve acknowledged that abuse isn’t solely on physical violence alone, but also emotional and psychological abuse. Thus, the victim might also show signs such as:
- Seems anxious to please their partner
- Having very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
- Showing major personality changes
- Depression, anxiety, or suicidal
If you ever witness warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member, or co-worker, take them very seriously. Sure, we can never know for sure, which leads us to hesitate to extend a helping hand. We might even question ourselves with things like,
“Well, it’s none of my business”
“I might be wrong”
“They might not want to talk about it”
However, keep in mind that expressing our concern will let the person know that we care and may even save their life. Also, remember that abusers are very good at controlling and manipulating their victims. People who have been emotionally or physically abused are often depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused.
Victims of abuse often don’t know what to do because their partner has isolated them from family and friends. Therefore, they need help to get out of the situation, especially in the matter of protecting themselves. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, we can help them escape an abusive situation and begin healing.
So, What Can We Do?
As concerning as we can be for their well-being, we don’t know what would be best for their exact situation. Keep in mind that anything you do might be crucial for their safety. Even when your intent is to help, if not done carefully, it could potentially put them in even more danger. Moreover, if you get involved when tempers are flaring, it can also put yourself in danger.
Here are some tips — the DOs and DON’Ts — when dealing with the victim of domestic violence.
DO : Ask if something is wrong
DON’T : Wait for them to reach out
You can bring up the subject of domestic violence by saying that you have noticed some changes that concern you. Let the person know that you will keep any information disclosed between the two of you. Do not try to force the person to open up, take it slow and easy, and let them know that you are available and offering a sympathetic ear.
DO : Express concern
DON’T : Judge or blame
Victims often feel that no one would believe them if they told people about the violence. Just let them talk, and listen to the story without being judgmental, offering advice, or suggesting solutions. Chances are if you actively listen, the person will tell you exactly what they need. Just give the person the full opportunity to talk. You can ask clarifying questions, but mainly just let the person vent their feelings and fears.
DO : Listen and validate
DON’T : Pressure them
It's not unusual for victims to express conflicting feelings about their partner and their situation. These feelings can range from guilt and anger, hope and despair, even love and fear. It is important that you validate their feelings by letting them know that having these conflicting thoughts is normal. What’s not normal is the violence itself, as well as to live in fear of being attacked physically, emotionally, psychologically.
DO : Offer help
DON’T : Give advice
If the victim asks you to do something specific and you are willing to do it, don't hesitate to help. If you are unable to, try to find other ways their need can be met. Also, victims who leave their abusive partners are at a 75% greater risk of being killed by their abuser than those who stay. So, help them create a safety plan that can be put into action if violence occurs again or if they decided to leave the relationship.
DO : Support their decision
DON’T : Place conditions on your support
Although there is no right or wrong way to help a victim of domestic violence, you want to avoid doing anything that will make the situation worse. This would mean to let the victim decide what solution they think would be best. The important thing is to let them know that you are there for them, available at any time. Just let them know how to reach you if they need you.
Lastly, if you know that violence is actively occurring, if you hear or see physical abuse taking place… Do not hesitate to call the police. Let the authorities know.
When you decided to help victim of abusive relationship, be brave. Do whatever is necessary to ensure their safety, and be committed to them. We have to put an end to this, speak up and reach out. Let’s end the silence on domestic violence.