Sanctuary for the Abused

Saturday, August 17, 2019

How Friends & Family Can Help an Abuse Victim


Family can have a great impact on the recovery of an abuse victim. Here is a brief description of things that family can do to help heal the heaviest of hearts and the deepest of wounds.

LISTEN: Although the thought of addressing an abusive relationship can be a difficult one, an abuse victim needs communication to help heal. Something as simple as letting the abuse victim talk to you and "vent" can make such a considerable difference in their recovery.

THINGS TO DO TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT: Be supportive. Really listen and indicate that you care

Help them receive help. See to it that they receive sensitive, concerned, and competent medical attention and/or counseling.

Recognize your own limitations in dealing with the abuse. If the survivor is a person you really care about, you are probably experiencing a number of different emotions from outrage to helplessness. Try to resist the urge to express your feelings to the survivor, especially in those silent periods when she may be crying or find it difficult to talk.

Block the abuser and do not communicate with them: 'Not taking sides' or 'remaining neutral' is anything but.  Block the abuser, support the victim.  Period.

Remember to take care of yourself. It can be emotionally exhausting to be supportive to the survivor, while keeping your feelings bottled up. Find someone you can talk to-your feeling matter too. By talking out your feelings with someone other than the survivor, you will be better able to provide the continuing support that the survivor needs.

Remember to put your frustration and anger where it belongs, not on the survivor. They are not "damaged property"; but instead a person who has been abused and violently mistreated.

Your personal revenge against the abuser will not help, and in fact only make matters worse.

How many times have you heard the phrase, "well, why don't you just leave him/her?" Probably more times then you can count. Although the topic of abuse is something that many of us can relate to, there are those out there who don't quite understand. In fact, one of the common reasons that abuse victims stay with their abuser is because of family issues, and fear of their family's rejection.

Accepting the fact that you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship is very difficult, and often times we do anything we can to push that possibility away. We would all like to believe that it "can not happen to us/those around us" but unfortunately, it can and it does. A common defense mechanism for friends and family of abuse victims is to pretend that the abuse is not taking place. Friends and family attempt to change the subject, become upset once the topic is unavoidable, and even accuse the victim of lying. Some even say "it was your choice" which it wasn't.  Not at all.

Although this is not the case in every situation, it happens more often then not. Through this system of lack of support or denial the victim becomes more isolated and eventually more connected to their abuser. Once this feeling of isolation has thoroughly sunk in the mind of an abuse victim, it becomes even more difficult to leave. An abuser has a powerful hold on their victim, and without assistance from family or friends, that hold can become almost unbreakable. After all, why leave if there is nothing else to go to?

Ask for specifics and details. Allow the survivor to express their feelings, fears and reactions as they choose.

Tell the survivor what they must and must not do. It is their decision whether or not to report the abuse to the police. If they do not decide to report the abuse, still remain supportive and help them in any way possible.

Make the survivor feel guilty. The survivor has already been through an ordeal; try not to make it worse by using statements such as, "Why did you" or "How could you" or "Why didn't you just leave" or "Just forget them" or "move on/ get over it" or "I don't believe that - are you for real?" or "Don't answer the phone/ etc" ? These statements will only make the survivor feel worse, and further isolate them from seeking help.

Tell anyone about the abuse, unless specified by the survivor. If you need to talk out your feelings, that is fine. But please remember that this is a hard time for the survivor, and they do not want any unnecessary people knowing about the abuse, unless it is on their terms. Let the survivor tell people at their own pace, and in their own way.

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shared by Barbara at 12:09 AM



Thank you for posting this. I am an adult survivor of child abuse myself. I have a friend in an abusive marriage and we used to talk about it frequently. I did suggest counseling for her (of course her narcissistic husband, a psych major himself, refuses to go). To make a very long story short there was one night when he was in an out of control rage where she and her kids came to spend the night with me to hide from him. They were terrified. I found out that night that he is abusive to their son as well. As a survivor myself and hearing the rages and the stories from her son that night, I can no longer socialize with a known child abuser, regardless of her decision to go back home the next morning. Ever since I cut ties with him, she has basically stopped speaking to me. I miss her and her kids and worry about them. I have left the door open for her to contact me any time but haven't heard from her in 6 months. I hope I hear from her again someday but I don't regret my decision to cut him loose.

8:05 AM  

Thank you for this article. I am a staff member in one of the organizations that helps abused women. Denial and misplaced blaming is not what abused women need. They need help and support which is expected from family members.

9:51 AM  

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