Offering support

BRATTLEBORO — It can be hard to know how to help a friend, family member, or colleague in an abusive relationship.

“Domestic violence is a very complex issue,” wrote Women's Freedom Center advocates in an email. “Although it is hard for friends, colleagues, and family members that don't want to see their loved one in a situation like this, it is essential to try and understand that it is not an easy fix and that often times there is much more to the situation then he or she may know.”

The Center offered some suggestions to help people looking to support a woman in an abusive situation.

“The woman [experiencing domestic violence] has been living and surviving the abuse for quite some time and knows the batterer's behavior better than anyone else,” the advocates added.

Respect the woman's timing: It is important she decide when and how she seeks help. Calling the police, for example, without her okay could become an intervention that potentially escalates the situation, making it more dangerous for her.

Respect the woman's privacy: Let her know about local resources or give her the Freedom Center's hotline number, but do not pressure her into calling. She will call when she's ready.

Avoid victim blaming: Questions like “Why did you get yourself in this situation?” or “Why don't you just leave?” can feel like you're blaming her for the abuse. These types of questions put the responsibility for the batterer's abusive actions on her shoulders. A more helpful approach is to say to her, “You don't deserve to be treated like this and what can I do to support you?”

Take care of yourself: It can be stressful to be in a supportive role, especially seeing a loved one hurt. Take measures to have a healthy outlet for this stress.

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