Support, tips, & resources for all impacted by interpersonal trauma
If you have a friend who has experienced domestic violence, it is important to be there for them. Domestic violence can be a difficult thing to cope with, and your friend may need your support. I asked for contributions from my community on LinkedIn, Facebook, Podcast Guests, and participants of the Stretch Yourself Challenge (SYC) to offer robust views and perspectives of what it means to assist a friend recovering from domestic violence. The suggestions in this post are solid and hopeful. I will end the article from a clinical perspective from my years working in emergency rooms, inpatient units, outpatient clinics, schools, adoption services, and in community mental health. Thank you for reading and supporting our contributors!
You’re having coffee with your girlfriend and catching up on life and the recent gossip, when she reveals to you during your conversation that she is being abused. You have all sorts of emotions going on in your head. What can you do? What can you say?
Many survivors of abuse never leave because of lack of support, so thank you for being a friend and caring! Here are ways to help your friend (either sex) to get through this tough time! For simplicity’s sake we will refer to your friend as “she”.
You know we all love to give our best advice to those we care about. That’s natural. Hold off on the wise, witty sayings and listen first. We are quick to fix, right? Your friend desperately needs someone to listen right now. What does it mean to listen? It means not interrupting, judging or quoting Bible verses. Get off your phone, be engaged, and nod to signify you are listening. You don’t need to have all the answers. It’s enough that you are there. Also, be discreet and confidential. No one wants her business blabbed all over town without permission.
The Right Timing
Many times you will see a friend in distress and want to help, but she will not want your help. I was there at one time. I didn’t recognize I was being abused. I wasn’t ready. It took a long time before I was able to accept help. You cannot force your friend to accept your help. She must come to the realization herself and ask for help. The only exception to this would be if you are aware of a minor currently being abused. Always report that to the police or child services!
Tell Her You’re Always There
If your friend says No, maintain a relationship with her if at all possible. Even if she does not want help now, let your friend know you are available night or day if she needs anything, and mean it. Trust me; there will be a day when your friend will desperately need your offer of help!
Decide What You Can Offer
When that day comes, decide ahead of time what you are willing and able to do to. There’s a lot you can do, but you don’t have to do everything!
- Put together an escape plan and emergency bag: gathering important documents, clothes, toiletries, funds, etc.
- Help her to find social services she can qualify for (Medicaid, rent assistance etc.)
- Find her a safe place to stay (your home, a shelter, or someone else’s place).
Determine if she needs an escort from the local Sheriff to get her personal belongings and leave safely. (Many abusers hide car keys and driver’s licenses.)
- Never put yourself or your family in an unsafe situation while helping your friend.
- Offer to watch her pets until she gets settled! Many survivors will not leave their pets behind, but many shelters won’t take them!
- Help her find job leads, training programs, small business resources, and career counseling.
- Offer to babysit the kids so she can go out and run errands or take a break.
Offer Emotional and Spiritual Support
Much of the process of leaving is quite emotional. Starting over is doubly hard for anyone when leaving abuse and trauma. Your friend needs a ton of emotional support right now and long after the transition is over. Here are some ways to help:
- Encouraging words to affirm such as: I believe you, it wasn’t your fault, what happened to you was wrong, and you’re going to be okay.
- Help her find a therapist, support group or great recommended books for survivors.
- Go with her to worship services where she feels comfortable. Pray with her if she is open to it.
- Introduce her to new friends, especially fellow survivors.
- Organize a surprise “shower” to help her start her new life.
A Happy Ending
The good news is that many people have left abusers and go on to have a happy, new life! The best thing you can do to encourage your friend is to be alongside her! She deserves a life where she is treated with respect, valued, and loved for who she is, despite her past.
Diana Winkler is a singer, songwriter, speaker and abuse advocate. She served as a missionary, planting churches for 13 years, while enduring abuse that was enabled by the church. 10 years ago, she started her ministry, DSW Ministries. She uses her music and mentoring to help survivors in the church heal from domestic violence, abuse, and trauma. She is the host of The Wounds of the Faithful Podcast and is a certified facilitator for Mending the Soul small groups. Diana is passionate about helping victims discover that, not only can you survive, but you can be victorious! Website: https://dswministries.org
What I have found to be one of the most important things to relearn after someone has been through a traumatic experience such as domestic violence, is to love yourself again.
Patience and Empathy
Being a friend for someone who has survived domestic violence requires patience and empathy. Not saying the right thing, problem solving, or even stepping on eggshells, but truly sitting with that person who may be going through the most difficult time in their life. Sitting with them in the dark, being vulnerable yourself to not “pity” but to truly empathize with your friend. Most importantly, offering a non-judgmental ear. Supporting your friend by being encouraging while also emphasizing the importance of loving yourself again or even for the first time.
True self-love is hard to obtain but not impossible, it requires work daily, every minute and every hour. It revolves around trusting yourself again: building and understanding your boundaries, extending graciousness to yourself even when mistakes are made, speaking up against your shame, and asking for
help. As a friend, you can encourage all of these by not only with your words, but by being a model in doing these things for yourself and guiding your friend through their difficult times.
It is important to stick to your own boundaries at this time, know when to take space and not take on sneaky vicarious trauma. You aren’t responsible for “fixing” your friend, but by loving yourself and sharing that love with your friend, can be powerful enough to help your friend through the healing Process.
Katie Dotie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who earned her Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Louisiana State University in 2011. She continued her education and earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Louisiana State University in 2014. Katie began her career as an Assistant Director of Discovery/Renew Family Resource Center where she assisted parents and children dealing with a variety of issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, physical abuse, and neglect. Katie also served as a Medical Social Worker Currently, Katie is the Director of Community Based Services at Volunteers of America. https://katie-dotie5510.clientsecure.me/
”Your past does not define you, it's just a part of your story, not your entire story.”
Domestic Violence does not only affect the victim but it affects their children, friends, and family. There is such a thing as secondary trauma. So how do we help a friend or close family member who is recovering from domestic violence? The first tip I can provide is when someone is disclosing abuse to you and you don't know what to say, simply say "I am sorry this happened to you. How can I support you?" Or "I believe you, this should have never happened to you." Your reaction can continue to break a survivor down or it can truly give them hope when you believe them and give them the support they need.
Unfortunately, we live in a victim blaming society and when many survivors come forward, they are accused of lying, or worse, shamed for their abuse. Saying things like, "why don't you just leave then?" or "what did you do to make them that upset?" never help anyone. Instead we should be asking questions about the perpetrator like, "what was he/she thinking?" or "we need to hold him/her accountable for what they have done to you." The victim did not ask to be hit or emotionally abused. No one deserves to be treated this way, no matter what the circumstances. The survivor is confiding in you which is a great gift. Take that gift and be gentle with it as it is fragile.
The second tip I can provide is if the victim has children with her abuser to help her find resources and help to keep her and her children safe. Help her with getting a domestic violence advocate who can help her with obtaining an order of protection or coming to court with her. Advocates are also able to help you with things such as free legal help, housing, food, etc. When women try to fight their abuser themselves through the court system it is very difficult to do it alone. When you have an advocate, judges tend to listen and help more because you went through an organization and have a paper trail behind you to support all your claims against your abuser. I have helped hundreds of women and the women who try to do it alone have a much more difficult time than those who have an advocate.
Please Do not Judge
The third tip is do not judge. It's very easy to say what you would do if you were in the situation but no one ever knows what they would do until they are actually in the situation themselves. I myself always said if a guy ever hit me I would kill him but once my ex abuser started getting physical I would freeze and do nothing. You never know how your body reacts to trauma and abuse so please remember that when speaking with your friend. Lastly, remember to always lead with empathy and kindness. It really goes a long way for those who have been being beat down both physically and emotionally. Sometimes, having just one person who cares and is supportive is all a person needs to move forward and heal.
Jennifer Ramirez is an author, speaker, entrepreneur and the founder of &Rise which is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower women to be the ultimate versions of themselves no matter what adversities they've faced. Jennifer is an advocate for people who feel powerless, to find their strength so they can rise to their full potential. To learn more about &Rise or to donate, visit www.womenrisechicago.org
Be a Friend Who Listens
Since no two situations or friends are identical and the trauma of domestic violence affects us all differently; as a friend listening is the most supporting thing I can do.
Correcting them or forcing my opinions may create triggers, and more than likely they had enough of that in their relationship. Being heard and understood means the world, so I validate their feelings and give them the unconditional love they deserve without judgment.
I support my friends by keeping them in a positive mindset by sharing mine! I have a way of finding the silver lining through the ugliest of situations, a way of bringing laughter during the roughest of emotionally charged environments, and a level head to provoke thought in a logical way. This is who I am as a friend before I was ever a coach. Instead of pointing out failures or asking questions to make them feel worse, I point out the positives in their strengths, wisdom, abilities, and make jokes in between. Laughter truly is medicine to the soul. What I've learned throughout the years is asking solid questions that help reframe their negative experience. This helps to expedite clarity opposed to confusion about what they experienced. The benefits of being clear is having the energy and motivation to be curious and courageous in moving forward opposed to staying mentally and emotionally focused on the past. For example, I will ask what they learned that has made them a stronger, wiser person and what they would want to teach their daughter or son based on their new wisdom. It’s a lesson learned in life, so when you know better you can be better.
Empowerment & Breaking the Cycle
Knowing your self-worth and valuing yourself after domestic violence is a very challenging hurdle. Being able to reach back into your core and identify who you are after such a devastating experience is not an easy task to overcome. As a friend, pointing these things out and being around often during the hardest times is the most empowering thing a friend can be during this journey. I enjoy being that friend that genuinely believes in you, it is motivating, it is encouraging, it is empowering, and it builds a momentum for the friend you love to take action!
I would have to say as a friend the biggest challenge is helping to prevent the cycle of them going back when their emotional battle is actively engaged. There is no such things as preventing, it can only be discouraging by helping them realize it's unhealthy for them, hurtful for them, not safe for them. They have to know it within. I have found and offered groups and other resources that I think can help if I feel they may need more than what I can offer. As a friend, I will do my best to help them get what they need.
When combining coaching and friendship there can be a fine line. Friends and family typically don't want to feel as if they made an appointment with you. I try really hard not to apply what I know will make them feel that way. They also know who I am as a friend, so… they’re going to get some raw and real sh** they may not like from me, but will later respect and appreciate it. Anyway, I am creative in going about it; it's kind of like a disclosure statement. For example, you know what I do for the community and what I'm involved in what I stand for and what I represent and with all my love... I give it to them.
I always default to boundaries by acknowledging how they feel, empathize, validate and push them to start creating boundaries. If my friend feels confused about who they are, their current identity, I suggest they realize quickly who they are NOT and to start building the boundaries around that knowledge. Bottom line - for me, it's not about being a 1 week 2 week friend, it’s about being consistent and going through the journey or long haul with them. A true friendship is exactly that.
A. Garcia is a Post Traumatic Growth Strategian, Whole Life Coach, Energy Consult & a Certified High Performance Coach. Garcia, over the past 35 years has navigated domestic violence, privacy, safety, vulnerability, and the mindset to endure personal adverse events in life. Her survival of a double attempted homicide while 8 months pregnant (by the father) and the desperation to survive became the catalyst to the foundation of BYIS (Be Your Incredible Self). Her personal journey of post traumatic growth has led Garcia to dedicating her life in developing transformational programs, coaching, courses and establishing a nonprofit (Confronting Domestic Violence) to empower victims. www.confrontingdomesticviolence.org
As a person who has recovered from domestic violence, I wanted to share with you how to help a friend recovering from domestic violence. Just because a person has left the violent scenario, it doesn’t mean that they are safe and free from the damage they endured.
As a person who is a friend with someone overcoming a domestic violent past, you can help them by using these tips.
Tips to Help a Friend Recovering from Domestic Violence
Pray for Them:
If you’re a religious person, then you know the power of prayer. Praying has the power to change everything. Pray for your friend to gain the complete healing they need. Also pray that you gain guidance to help them fully.
Be a Listener:
As a person who has endured domestic violence, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve retold my story. Sometimes I’ve done it in hopes of helping someone else. However, many times, it’s been a way of me processing everything I’ve endured.
Our brains have a unique way of automatically forgetting details of our lives to protect us. Yet, there are times when we need to recap what we’ve gone through to get fully over it.
Be an Encourager:
Encourage them to talk about it freely as much as they can. Encourage them to get counseling or at the very least join a local support group. Some people may even need you to go to a support session with them.
Also remind them that the abuse was NOT their fault. Remind them of their value. Maybe even consider getting them a journal full of self-affirmations so they can write in it, and gain those little reminders.Crystal Green is a southern wife and homeschooling parent who seeks to help women pursue their passions while making every moment count. She aim to help you have more time for what matters most to you, such as your family, friends, and your own self-care. She look forward to connecting with you and helping you improve your daily life. You can connect with her on Sharing Life's Moments.
A Personal Testimony of Helping a Family Impacted by Domestic Violence
"He had me fooled the moment he walked through my door."
Abusers Are Often Friendly
My husband had made friends with an older man through a mutual friend. The three of them would play video games together frequently. One day my husband came to me and informed me that the older friend, his wife, and their two young daughters were evicted out of their home and were living in their car. My husband wanted to let them stay with us until they could get back on their feet. Usually, I wouldn't have agreed to this, but children were involved. Of course, I agreed.
When they arrived a couple of months later, he was very appreciative and friendly. He even offered to cook meals for us until he started bringing some money in. That was probably the most considerate thing he did for us while he was here. The children loved my friendly Chihuahua mix, and me and the wife bonded over our mutual love of creepy gothic things, hard rock, and anime. It looked like this was going to work out.
It took a couple of months for the façade to crumble. I did notice that the couple wasn't very affectionate towards each other. He would try, but she would shut him down, usually with playful teasing. I just chalked it up to that was how she showed affection. After all, my sister and brother-in-law have a very playful way of showing their love. I would soon find out that she did this because she was disgusted by him and didn't want to touch him.
Sometimes Abusers are Trauma Survivors
He is a veteran of the Iraqi war, and I'm pretty sure he suffered from a TBI (traumatic brain injury) from a combat attack. Of course, that is not an excuse for why he treated his wife and daughters so poorly. I wanted to give a little context since I was told he wasn't always like this.
I learned about the abuse from the older daughter, who was nine then. She told me that he had choked her mother before they moved in with us. I was horrified. Luckily, the abuser was out looking for work when this happened. I immediately called my husband and questioned who he had brought into our home. The Abuser’s attitude towards me changed once he was confronted, and I saw him for who he was.
He started belittling me and would frequently yell in my face whenever we had a disagreement. This behavior was too much, and we had to evict them all. I worried about her and the girls, but eventually, I wouldn't have to. Right before Christmas of 2021, the wife and children fled back to us.
My husband and I helped them get a restraining order. We also had to get one because he started threatening us. It was ridiculous how many hoops a battered woman has to go through. Still, she and the girls are currently living in their apartment.
I have no regrets. The abuser got what he deserved.
Miranda Moore is a disabled content writer and resume crafter. She was born with cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around. Miranda has written blogs, articles, and landing pages for many different businesses. You can contact her and see her work at http://www.mirandathefreelancer.com
Domestic Violence is Prevalent
Domestic Violence is more common for young women and men during these times, even with the number of resources and support available.
In many cases domestic violence is not always recognizable, but sooner than later it becomes not so easy to hide. It is always good to remember, most abuse is NOT physical. As well as not all bad behavior is abuse. Abusers come in all genders, personalities, and all professions. If you are unsure, talk to a domestic violence advocate. They can help you identify what you see and give you resources on what to do to help.
Importance of Education
If you are not sure if someone is being abused, the best thing to do is educate yourself about partner violence. Read about the different forms it can take and how to recognize those. Having a conversation with a domestic abuse counselor to help your friend might be challenging and awkward to talk about. A counselor might advise you how to talk to your friend, which might also be tough. Trying to figure out if their partner is indeed abusing them might make them feel embarrassed. They may deny it or get mad at you for bringing it up. All these feelings and outbursts are normal. What is important is how you handle it and what happens after. If someone tells you they are being abused, listen. Believe them. You may be the first person they have ever told. No one wants to see their friend in this situation, and I understand you want to jump in and help; it’s important to remember you might do more harm than good in that way.
Boundaries, Support, & Taking Care of Yourself
As a friend, domestic violence situations can be tough on you as well. It is okay to set boundaries when your friend is discussing the abuse. Tell your friend up front, “I understand you are going through a rough time, here are the resources I can help you with if you want my help.” It tells your friend you care for them and are willing to help, but also that extended help is as far as you will go. Witnessing and knowing what your friend went though can put a toll on your own mental health as well. It’s important to know when to not get too involved and to know how to protect yourself in the relationship. Don’t put all the pressure on you, there may be strains and arguments but just know it’s okay to take a break. Remember this is their story, and they get to always choose the ending.
Emily Kerestedjian was born and raised in Upstate New York. She obtained a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Keuka College in May of 2022 and is in the process of continuing her education at Keuka College for her Master of Social Work degree. While obtaining her Bachelor of Social Work at Keuka College, Emily has interned at a not-for-profit organization that works with military veterans and their families where she used her social work knowledge to help connect military veterans with the various programs provided. Emily is a certified scuba diver, an avid hiker in Central New York, and enjoys all the Fall’s activities. https://www.linkedin.com/mwlite/in/emily-kerestedjian-757576239
I have a friend who had relocated to another state by herself. She fell in love with someone, got married, and had a child. Truthfully, we did not keep in contact as often as we could’ve, life got busy.
We reconnected through social media and picked up as if no time had passed. They mentioned meeting their significant other and surprised me with news of a child. A couple of months had passed by with no word from her since our last interaction.
A Friend In Immediate Need - First Steps
I was working remotely and I heard my doorbell ringing multiple times. A family member of mine welcomed her in our home and there she stood with a physical injury by herself and no child with her. She explained to me what she had endured since being with her husband and she was finally ready to leave her situation. I asked where the child was and if they were okay for the time being, the child was with her husband because she couldn’t bring him in her condition.
From that point on, I knew she needed immediate assistance, resources but more importantly a non-judgmental friend. We were calling, emailing and online chatting with multiple non-profits agencies; until we found one who responded quickly and would help her with some free legal assistance.After resolving the need for legal support, we managed to get some nutrition in her, a secured phone, and another jacket to wear. She was reunited with her family that same day and we continued her freedom journey.
Working With Authorities & Paperwork
The next day, I received a phone call from my friend and she needed to go get the child from their original residence. Without a doubt I offered to drive her and her mother so that we could bring the child to where she was relocating to. She had gone back and forth between taking public transportation or ride service, but I reassured her that I wouldn’t have an issue assisting her. I let her decide what she wanted to do and that I would be available if she needed me. I left at the beginning of my workday after confirming she would be okay with me driving. We took the trip up with her mother and another good friend of ours to make sure the child was okay and we contacted the local authorities as well. She filed all the necessary paperwork and came back to the new place she would call home.
Being an Advocate
Within the next couple of months, it had been quite a struggle of emotions, feelings, and everything in between; during that time my friend was able to finally choose what was best for her and her child. As a friend allowing her the space and resources is how she started her healing journey and thanked me very much during the process. She knows that others in the same situation don’t always have the same outcome. Through her adversities, she managed to have a confidant, advocate, and a safe space to change her life.Chelsea Cordero is a graduate from Seton Hall University where she obtained her bachelor’s in Social Work. She is Latina (Puerto Rican & Ecuadorian) and a first generation graduate in hopes of pursuing her MSW in the future. Chelsea hopes to continue to be an advocate for others while also trying to break the stigmas that are associated with mental health within the Latine (Latinx) community. Chelsea is a Direct Support Professional with the I/DD community. Chelsea serves as a Macro Social Work for a Legislative Office. In hopes of sharing this story, she hopes to inspire others to be a safe place to those in vulnerable positions. https://www.linkedin.com/in/chelsea-c-7101ba211
Domestic Violence Can Be Unspoken/Unseen
Domestic violence happens in many households, some spoken and others unspoken
of, in what you view as domestic violence isn’t always noticed or seen from the naked eye of an insiders or outsiders perspective.
What begins as one gaslit or demeaning comment, one act of jealousy, one aggressive push, one act of loss of freedom, one act of silent treatment, one act of being inappropriately touched, one “not so” funny remark about not being enough or being too much to then slowly or quickly increasing in presenting itself to be more and more aggressive over time, which are all indications of domestic violence.
Sadly, the Abused may not be cognizant of everything that is transpiring around them, as all of these minute actions build over the span of time.
Survivor Views of Relationships
Many Abused feel that something is not quite right with their relationship and in the same breath they feel that what they are experiencing is somewhat “normal” and that most relationships have similar challenges.
Even though they may have sentiments that they have a quote on quote “normal” relationship, they consistently seek guidance from others to validate or affirm that what they’re undergoing is “normal” in hopes that their Abuser is not abusing them.
There are also the Abused that are way too fearful or ashamed to let anyone know what is transpiring in their households in fear of repercussion of the Abuser or the judgments of those they share their experience.
This state most often puts them into a state of denial as they begin to rationalize why they should stay in an unhealthy environment, as their natural response to change is fear in every reason why they should not follow through with their instinctual feelings which is supported with some of their thought processes such as; that they can fix and save their abuser, that others have it worse seeing their partner does not cheat on them, they are a decent partner or co-parent when things are good, or they didn’t mean to abuse them and they are truly sorry yet it never stops from occurring again and again, or they think that the Abuser does not overly abuse them and or have a belief that things will get better if they just become a better partner to their Abuser by saying less, doing more, rarely expressing themselves, losing their voice of advocacy, avoid rocking the boat, avoid questioning their Abuser’s authority, walking on eggshells, and losing their sense of self and identity by numbing the pain within the parameters of their safety mechanisms and shutting down.
Unfortunately, no amount of them altering themselves will change the Abuser from abusing them, as the root of the issue is not them, it is in fact the abusive behaviors of the Abuser and this is the only place in where the accountability lies for these actions.
Furthermore, the integrity of their emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical bodies remains in constant fight or flight as a self-defense and self-protection mechanism, they are still not able to process what is really happening to them as they are still suffering from trauma shock, understanding that trauma is not always a grand catastrophic event and that it can be incremental events that happen over time that traumatize the emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual bodies.
There is also a sense of normalcy and the normalization of the relationship as they may have also witnessed these behaviors and actions in their households growing up or it’s been instilled within their lineage for generations, inter-generations and lifetimes presenting and revealing itself as cyclical patterns of abuse, programming, conditioning, which has convinced them that they must stay in the dynamics of the relationship due to marriage vows, children, finances, loyalty, integrity, comfortability, external validation, acceptance and so on…
The reason I am called to go into these details of abuse is when you understand why someone would be the subject of abuse or “tolerate” abuse it is absolutely helpful and important to be able to have that knowledge on how it actually comes to light as rarely any Abuser outright declares or shows signs that they are in fact an “Abuser” regardless of the subtle or not so subtle red flags that may have been witnessed throughout the starting of the relationship.
Knowledge is Power
My belief is that our knowledge is our power and until we can have a better understanding we can then view domestic violence from a well informed perspective.
Firstly, this brings us into safety and depending on where they are in their Journey of leaving (commencement, mid-way or more progressed) throughout their separation to the Abuser, it is always diligent and crucial to create a safety exit plan in regards to their living, work, entertainment arrangements in addition to having a safety check-in plan, safe words and safe places to meet if they ever feel in imminent danger.
Secondly, when someone you love is moving away from this cyclical pattern it is of high importance to not verbally attack their abuser as this will instinctively put them in a state of defense towards their Abuser as you reflect on the “Stockholm Syndrome”, in similarity they have built a trauma bond with their Abuser and words of attack can have the Abuse Survivor wanting to re-enter the relationship to protect their “Abuser”.
When we understand and feel into true divinity we come to know that even the Abuser has been subjected to a cyclical pattern of abuse similarly to the Abused, and the Abuse Survivor has more often than not witnessed this person’s capabilities of light, goodness and the love that they could be capable of providing. The Abusers are still in fact human beings trying to process their own traumas without proper guidance or tools. Understanding that there are NO acceptable excuses as there is a surplus of resources and tools available for anyone that is willing and wanting to truly seek the help and guidance that they need.
I need to make this abundantly clear that NO abuse is EVER tolerable or acceptable under any circumstance.
Thirdly, the importance in supporting the Abuse Survivor throughout this part of their Journey is understanding their vulnerability along with the significance of being their safe haven and soft spot for them to land as they are in need of a place of solace and calmness. They require a sanctuary to not feel like they are being placed into another hostile environment that will trigger and activate their self-protection mechanisms.
Creating a Sanctuary for Survivors
The best way to do this is to approach them with exuding love, compassion, empathy and understanding which allows them the safety to experience more profound reflection in all capacities by simply holding this sacred space for them to explore their emotions, thoughts, reactions, and actions without judgment or crucifixion. Should you notice that they may require additional services such as spiritual guidance, healing, self-Help, therapy, they should definitely seek out assistance from a trusted professional.
Lastly, they need to be able to fully express themselves in all of their shades of light (light+dark), energies(feminine+masculine), emotions and thoughts and to be told that they have permission to allow themselves to grieve as decisions of certainty once made are brought into question, a life they once envisioned wasn’t what they once dreamt it would be and it’s perfectly healthy to allow the emotions of anger, hurt, resentment, guilt, sadness, grief, relief, happiness to flow through them so that they can fully release themselves for the Journey to come!
Roxanne is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Roxanne Chaput Limited, she is a Celestial Guide, Celestial+Generational Earth Shaman, Quantum Healer, an Inspirational Speaker+Podcast Host of Soul to Soul with Roxanne in addition to being a Life+Love Mentor. Roxanne’s purpose is to provide a safe and powerful place for her clients to discover the answers they need to move forward emotionally, mentally, physiologically, energetically and spiritually with absolute purpose and clarity. https://www.roxannechaput.com/
A Reflective Summary
by Trauma Recovery Expert Karen Robinson
Thank you for staying until the end of our robust, round up of contributors volunteering to share their experiences either as survivors, service providers, friends or family. It can be difficult to know what to do when faced with a domestic violence crisis. It is okay not to know what to do but please don’t hesitate to reach out for support. Here are my recommendations in assisting a survivor.
- Believe them
- Actively listen
- Keep their information private unless needing to contact authorities (safety)
- Offer transportation
- Take photos of injuries if survivor will allow it
- Discuss safe places to meet and code words
- Provide emergency Numbers
My #1 Recommendation: Make a safety plan
A safety plan includes action steps to lower the survivor’s risk. Here are six steps to consider.
Step 1: Have a list of emergency contacts to include the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Support, resources and advice for your safety
- 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Text “START” TO 88788
Step 2: Have a secret code word your family and friends know ahead of time so that you can state or text it to them for help without your partner knowing.
Step 3: List of places to go where you feel safe. Include shelters. If you aren’t sure where to go, start with public places or a police station.
Step 4: Have a “go” bag. Include your phone and phone charger, medications, your passport/license/birth certificate, your wallet (cash, credit cards, health insurance), keys, basic clothes, supplies for baby/child, and any small comfort items.
Step 5: Obtain a protection order. Change your driving route. List different routes you can take to and from work, school, family. Protective orders vary depending on the state you reside in. Document your research.
Step 6: Asses the risk you are in. Does your partner have access to a weapon? Have they strangled you? Have they threatened to kill you, your children, or themselves? Survivors who have been choked or strangled are 10X more likely to be killed. Please consider your risks before returning to your abuser. It can be difficult to leave a partner and emotions can be complicated. This danger assessment by Dr.Jacquelyn C. Campbell can help you assess your risk. https://www.dangerassessment.org/da.aspx
Thank you again for the time and attention for learning more about how to effectively assist a survivor who is recovering from domestic violence. It is important to take care of yourself as it is possible the survivor will return to the abuser due to the cycle of abuse and the psychological impact. Be prepared to step in to help as they allow. Supportive, non-judgmental exchanges will increase the trust your friend will have in you to be there when she is ready.
Karen Robinson is a trauma recovery expert. She is the CEO & Founder of Heal Thrive Dream, LLC. Heal Thrive Dream offers coaching, VIP days, virtual memberships and inspirational products. Heal Thrive Dream runs a full-service digital agency as well as e-commerce stores. To learn more about Karen and her services: https://karenrobinson360.com
Emergency Organizations https://www.acontagioussmile.com/services/domestic-violence-emergency-organizations-and-assistance
Free Moving Companies
National Domestic Violence Hotline Resources
This is a very difficult and sensitive topic. Domestic violence is never acceptable, and it is important to be supportive of friends who have experienced it. From what you said, it sounds like many abused people may not even be aware of what is happening to them, as the abuse can build up over time. It is also sad that many abused people feel like they have to justify their situation to others or that they can 'fix' their abuser. If you have a friend who is in an abusive situation, it is important to be supportive and listen to them. You can also help them by providing resources or information about domestic violence and how to get help. Thank you for bringing this up.
Thank you Douglas for sharing your comments. We appreciate you!
Fantastic collaborative post. Lots of great information on helping others who have experienced domestic violence. I usually am at a loss for words in these situations.
Thank you Robin for your kind comments!Hopefully, you picked up a couple of tips in the unfortunate case your help is needed. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is simply be there with a listening ear.
Karen, Thank you for pulling this article together. I am a survivor of an emotionally abusive relationship. Two of my closest friends are survivors of physically abusive relationships. These tips and resources are perfect. Thank you for compiling this article to share how to help women like us in these situations.
Thankfully, all three of us are out of those toxic relationships, but as a survivor, I appreciate you sharing this information.
Thank you Erica for sharing your past trauma. I’m sorry this happened to you. We appreciate your feedback.
This is a great resource with a variety of different stories of people who have escaped abuse and how to help those trying to get to that point and beyond. I hadn't thought of a shower but what a cool concept to allow friends to help and celebrate the beginning of a new stage of life! It is notable that abusers come in all types and sizes and not all are evil obvious psychopaths.
Thank you Jodi for your valuable feedback.I agree that a shower can be a wonderful idea!
This post took me back, way back to my past. Unlike many domestic violence cases talked about (at least that I hear about), I was young (my senior year of highschool and just after graduation) when I dealt with domestic violence. I'll never forget the night he was choking me & his mom walked in – she probably saved my life, all the while begging me to not call the police. Sadly, calling the police wasn't even something that had crossed my mind and even more sadder, I remember being mad at myself for making him so angry he got physical with me… but that's how it was each time, I always blamed myself because he made me believe it was my fault.)
I think there was great advice shared in this post and it also makes me wonder how many resources are available for younger people that deal with this. I know domestic violence wasn't something I even heard about back when I was 18/19. And I'm not sure any of my friends would have even known how to handle something like that if I had shared it with anyone.
I’m so sorry this happened to you Tish! Thank you for sharing such a difficult trauma with us. I’m so glad you are safe.
This is a great collection of suggestions and resources. Miranda Moore mentioned the hoops that women have to jump through and several touched on the judgement…often that judgement also comes from the agencies and staff the person is trying to get help from. I think a lot of people imagine that abused individuals stay because they just keep forgiving the abuser, but usually it is so much more complicated.
Thanks for sharing this!
Thank you Rebecca for your feedback and for mentioning Miranda’s point about reserving judgment. We appreciate your comments.
Thanks for all the great ideas on how to support those in need. I love the collaboration and community support.
Thank you Amanda, we appreciate your comment. Collaboration in trauma recovery has ripple effects in public awareness.
This is such a great compilation of sage advice, Karen. And so needed.
One of the toughest situations to deal with is the abuser who is an attorney–whose connections and knowledge of the legal system allow them to weaponize the system that should be protecting the Abused. I've seen that happen and it really disturbs me.
I don't have the answer to this scenario but I've been involved as a friend and as a pediatrician when I was in practice. Listening, empathizing, believing, and helping to safety are so important.
Thank you for this comprehensive article. You're doing great work–work that's desperately needed.
I appreciate your thoughts and comments Dr. Melissa. I agree, when abuser is an attorney, police officer, service member, it certainly complicates both care and justice.
Thanks to Karen and all those who collaborated on this post. Thank you all for the information. It is hard to know what to do to assist someone who is in an abusive relationship and/or recovering from one. Well worth a second read to absorb all that was shared.
It should better prepare friends, family and colleagues to deal with domestic violence situations. I am glad that to read the acknowledgements that the person abused can be male or female and that culture can play apart. Getting past preconceived biases can be hard.
Thank you Betty for your comments. I agree looking at biases is also important.
I never know what to say or do when I hear someone is being abused physically or mentally. Fortunately, it is not a frequent occurrence, but unfortunately, it is more prevalent than many people think. People open up to me so I hear about it.
Your panel and each of their content is amazing. I feel more prepared to help and not just say something like, 'I am here for you.' or 'let me know if you need anything.'
One of the things I want to continue working on is how to better support friends or family who may be in an abusive relationship.
Thanks for sharing, Karen!
Thank you Paul for your feedback! You are a human who brings a great deal of light, love, and gratitude into the world and I find it hopeful that you are not seeing it domestic violence as frequent. You are correct statistically. Unfortunately, therapists, police officers, and emergency rooms witnessed an uptempo in domestic violence cases during the pandemic due to both children and adults being isolated at home. Domestic violence is a preventable social issue that together we can stamp out.
Karen, thanks for gathering all this helpful information and these insights from such amazing people, including yourself! Domestic violence is a topic that many are uncomfortable discussing but that definitely needs to be discussed. Women and men need to know that domestic violence is not the norm and should not be tolerated. This post empowers ordinary people to be able to make a difference for those who desperately need help and hope.
Thank you Amy for your comments. They mean a great deal to me and I especially like your statement, “This post empowers ordinary people to be able to make a difference for those who desperately need help and hope.”
This is a very good resource. Oftentimes it's difficult to know how to respond with compassion and offer the right words of support. It seems that just listening and offering an open presence is a great 1st step.
Thank you Benecia for your kind comment.💜🦋