Beating Down Domestic Violence
Tips on Offering Support to Abuse Victims Who May Not Want It
With stats like that, it’s pretty likely that you know someone in an abusive relationship. Chances are she is scared, really scared and needs your help— even if she doesn’t think so.
What can a family member, friend, and co-worker do to help?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline, an anonymous call center for victims (800-799-SAFE)
Victims of violence may not be ready to end the relationship, so your role as the supporter is to be available to help her whenever she needs it. And be sure she knows the abuse is not her fault.
Why she stays…
It may be confusing for someone who is not in an abusive relationship to understand why the victim doesn’t leave. There are many factors. Strong emotional and psychological forces are at work to keep the victim tied to the abuser.
She may be scared for her life.
She may not even realize it’s abuse. She may even think she deserves it. Regardless, your role as her support is to be non-judgmental about her decisions. Maybe she has tried to leave, several times, but the abuser has guilted her into changing her mind. Eventually she will need your help, so be there and be a good friend.
Experts agree, that after a victim has found a safe haven from the abuse she still needs to have a support system. She may feel lonely or sad after the relationship ends. Similar to an alcoholic who puts down their last drink, her work to build herself back up is just beginning.
Life After Abuse
The more support she has the better she will adjust to healthy relationships. Learning to be around people who respect and treat her well may seem foreign to her. Friends and family should encourage her that she made the right decision and develop a safety plan.
A safety plan is a way to safely leave the relationship, or tools on how to integrate into life after she leaves the relationship. Her emotions can be overwhelming. Confusion, sadness, guilt, anger, fear, depression are completely normal. She needs good friends and professional counselors to talk to during this time. Often a victim of abuse may feel she doesn’t deserve to be happy. She needs to build up her self-esteem during this time.
Tips to Build Self-Esteem
According to LoveIsRespect.org there are tips to help rebuild self-esteem after abuse:
1. Congratulate yourself for leaving
2. Be patient with yourself
3. Spend time with positive people, avoid all contact with the abuser
4. Take care of your body, stay healthy, sleep well
5. Find a support group/volunteer to help others
The hardest part for those of us who watch a loved one suffer is that we cannot “rescue” them. We have to accept that ultimately she has to make the final decision herself. This is why we must teach girls at a young age important values in a relationships and how to identify signs of abusers early.
As a Professional Girls Empowerment and Self-Defense Instructor, I know the abuse statistics are alarming. One useful tool that girls can use as early as the tween years is the Jerky Johnny® safety role-playing game. Moms, counselors, and teachers recommend Jerky Johnny (www.JerkyJohnny.com)
Know the Signs…
The best way to prepare our daughters, or any woman, from domestic violence is to teach her to recognize ‘Danger Signs’ of a potentially dangerous person.
There are many Danger Signs. And often he (most abusers are male) will exhibit more than one sign. The signs themselves are not hard to identify. He’s always telling you what to do, how to dress, or where to go; he’s Controlling. He calls you names, teases you, shouts or curses at you; he’s Verbally Abusive. He prevents you from seeing your family, friends; he Isolates you.
The problem is not that we can’t identify the many Danger Signs. Rather, it’s that most girls and women are taught to be nice and friendly. We often dismiss the signs. We give him another chance when we shouldn’t. “Oh, he’s not a bad guy”, we say. We choose to ignore our body’s intuition when it is SCREAMING LOUDLY to tell us something is wrong.
Intuitive signals can come to us in many forms: sweaty palms, a stomachache, a hunch, fear, chills, etc. That is why, it is so important to know how your body responds to fear. We all need to learn, and be familiar with our distinct intuitive signal. When you feel it, you listen to it. NO EXCUSES.
“No! Stop! You have no right to treat me that way!”
These are critical words to teach our daughters. Say them with confidence. Firmly. Do not let the situation escalate. Girls and women need to break off the relationship at the very first sign. Then always get help. It doesn’t matter how much time has gone by, you can always report abuse when you feel ready to talk.
Other Resources for Help
Teens can text “go” to 741-741 to get free anonymous help. There are also online sites that are helpful: kurukula.org, loveisrespect.org, breakthecycle.org, and rainn.org to name a few.
Don’t ever turn a blind eye to abuse. The victim needs you.
Jerky Johnny Game Productsions, LLC
PO Box 6519 Albany, CA 94706