A Guide for Concerned Family and Friends

It is important to understand that it takes a great deal of courage for an abused woman to reach out for help. She may feel guilty, afraid, ashamed, fearful of being judged and very much alone.

When dealing with an abused woman in crisis, it is important to assess the danger of her situation. Attempt to reassure her that you are there to be supportive of her.

It is important not to judge her, advise her, or rescue her. She needs to feel in control. It is common for women to minimize the abuse that is happening to them. If you feel she is in danger, express your concerns to her. Do not make negative remarks against her abuser as she may feel the need to defend him/her, and she may still love him/her.

DO

  • Believe her
  • Listen and let her talk about her feelings
  • Give clear messages that:
    violence is never okay or justifiable
    the safety of the woman and her children is always the most important issue
    woman assault is a crime
    she does not cause the abuse
    she is not to blame for her abuser’s behaviour
    apologies and promises will not end the violence
    she is not alone
    she is not crazy
    abuse is not loss of control, it is a way of controlling another person
  • Talk with her about what she can do to plan for her and her children’s safety. Encourage her to make her own decisions
  • Help her find the good things about herself and her children
  • Know the key resources in the community and how to contact them
  • Get her a copy of a community resource list
  • Respect her confidentiality
  • Remember, emotional and psychological abuse is just as devastating as physical abuse

An abused woman needs support and encouragement in order to make choices that are right for her. However, there are some forms of advice that are not useful and may even be dangerous for her to hear.

  • Don’t tell her what to do, when to leave or when not to leave
  • Don’t tell her to go back to the situation and try a little harder
  • Don’t try to rescue her by finding quick solutions
  • Don’t suggest you try to talk to her abuser to straighten things out
  • Don’t tell her she should stay for the sake of the children
  • Don’t lose patience if she leaves, then returns to her abuser She still needs support.
  • Don’t assume that because her abuser presents as a nice person and/or pillar of the community that there is no abuse
  • Don’t assume that because a woman does not “fit” your personal beliefs of how an abused woman should be that she can’t be abused
  • Don’t assume that because a woman is being abused, that she will be ineffective in many parts of her life. Many woman can be coping with the crisis of leaving an abusive relationship and still be a competent employee, active in the community, and an effective parent

DO NOT MAKE COMMENTS OR ASK QUESTIONS LIKE:

“I wouldn’t let a anyone beat me – I wouldn’t be around for the second time”
“I don’t understand why you just don’t leave”
“You must be getting something out of the beating otherwise you wouldn’t allow it”
“What did you do that would cause him/her to hit you?”
Questions and comments such as this only add to the burden of guilt the woman already carries.

REMEMBER TO BE PATIENT.

It is her needs and values that are important and it is important to understand that it takes a great deal of courage for an abused woman to reach out for help. She may feel guilty, afraid, ashamed, fearful of being judged and very much alone.

UNDERSTAND WHY WOMEN MAY NOT LEAVE, OR WHY THEY MAY GO BACK TO AN ABUSIVE PARTNER

    1. hope abusive behaviour will stop
    2. no place to go
    3. fear of reprisals
    4. children make it difficult to find alternative housing
    5. financial problems, unemployment, lack of money
    6. fear of being alone
    7. see quitting the relationship as a failure
    8. no one comes to her aid
    9. guilt and shame, feel responsible for the abuse
    10. fear of retaliation on children
    11. religious, family and social pressures
    12. lack of knowledge of available resources
    13. unwillingness to deprive children of other parent
    14. a paralyzing sense of having no control over her own life
    15. views of beatings as isolated incidents
    16. “learned helplessness”
    17. fear of endangering friends or relatives who might help her
    18. isolation of women in same-sex relationship
    19. a woman may feel safer in the relationship than in running away from her abuser because of threats made to harm her, her children or her family if she leaves
    20. in some cultures female domination is an accepted practice
    21. a lack of understanding and support by professionals
    22. fewer resources due to government restraints