Do You Know Someone in an Abusive Relationship?

Woman Standing by Office DoorWritten by: Theresa Sokup, Agnesian HealthCare Domestic Violence Counselor

Tips for Family and Friends For Supporting Loved Ones Affected by Domestic Violence

Domestic Violence is unfortunately very common and affects the lives of many men, women and children who witness the abuse or experience it firsthand.  Statistics show that one in three women around the world has been abused at some point during her lifetime.  Additionally, one in four men in the United States has experienced abuse in his lifetime. Statistics also indicate that approximately 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence every year.

While these numbers are alarming, the number of people who are affected by domestic violence, even if they have not experienced or witnessed it themselves, is much higher.  According to the Allstate Foundation National Poll on Domestic Violence, conducted in 2006, three out of four Americans personally know someone who is a victim of or has been a victim of domestic violence.  This just goes to show that the large majority of us have been affected by domestic violence either personally or through a friend or family member.

However, often times we forget that family and friends of the victims can be just as affected by the violence as the victim in some cases.  Many times family and friends of victims report feeling hopeless due to not knowing what to do to help their loved one get out of the abusive relationship or cope with/heal from the abuse that the loved one endured.  This can contribute to feeling powerless to help their loved one which can lead to similar psychological effects that are experienced by the victim, such as: depression, anxiety, emotional detachment, sleep disturbances as well as others.

So What Can you Do?

Because many people know someone who has been abused or is being abused it is important for us to be aware of the ways in which we can be supportive and helpful. Though this seems simple, it is often difficult to do, especially when we don’t fully understand the situation which cannot only be frustrating but also discouraging.  Therefore, to be supportive we must first seek to understand our loved one’s experience.  This can be done in the following simple steps:

Be Attentive

In many cases, victims of domestic violence will exhibit changes in mood and behavior slowly over time or in some cases right away.  If you notice that a loved one seems to react differently to situations than they had previously this may be an indication that something is wrong.  Some common signs of abuse to watch for in your loved one include:

  • anxiety about trying to please their partner,
  • going along with everything their partner wants,
  • checking in with their partner often to report where they are and what they are doing,
  • receiving frequent phone calls from their partner,
  • rarely going out in public without their partner and
  • decreased enjoyment in activities or social gatherings

Seek to Understand

If you believe that your loved one may be in an abusive relationship – ask.  Ask your loved one if everything is okay.  Mention the signs that you have noticed and express concern for your loved one’s safety.  This lets them know that you are paying attention and that you care about them.  Keep in mind that your loved one may not want to admit that they are being abused right away for a variety of reasons.  Tell them that you are there for them if or when they want to talk.

If your loved one confirms that they are being or have been abused, let them talk to you about it.  Let them know that it is safe for them to tell you and that you will keep the information private.  Listen to what your loved one is telling you and acknowledge their feelings and the difficulty it took for them to tell you about what is going on.

Offer Support

Tell your loved one that you are there to help them in whatever way you can.  Offer nonjudgmental support and acknowledge that they are in a difficult situation.  Try not to give advice or pressure them to leave the relationship.  Attempt to understand, respect and support their decision of whether to stay in the relationship or to leave it.  Reassure them that you will continue to support them no matter what they decide and encourage them to seek out resources for additional support.

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If you or someone you know is in need of support services for domestic violence, please contact Agnesian HealthCare Domestic Violence Program at (920) 926-4303 or (920) 926-4207.  Agnesian HealthCare Domestic Violence Program offers a variety of services for victims and family or friends affected by domestic violence.  Services include:

  • one-on-one counseling
  • legal and medical advocacy
  • safety planning
  • support groups &
  • referral to community resources

All of these services are free of charge for victims and family or friends.

Additionally, Agnesian HealthCare Domestic Violence Program will be starting a support group for family and friends affected by domestic violence called an Affected Family Members group.  This group will begin at the end of October 2013 and is open to family and friends of victims of domestic violence who are 18 years of age or older.

Please contact Theresa Sokup at (920) 926-4303 for more information.

 

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