Helping SomeoneRemember that you cannot ‘rescue’ them. Be supportive and listen.
It is difficult to be an outside witness to a situation you suspect is destructive to someone you care about; especially if they are staying silent or attempting to cover it up.
You may be weighing whether the person will cut off your friendship if you say something. It is important to bring up the subject when the moment seems right. You may say something like, ‘You seem so tense and worried lately, I’ve really been concerned.’ If they volunteer any information, you may wish to ask, ‘Are you in danger?’
Remember that you cannot ‘rescue’ them. Be supportive and listen.
If they resist breaking their silence, you may need to bring up the subject more than once. Be clear you don’t wish to intrude but you care and want to be available to help however you can. It is important to convey that they are not alone and not to blame and that it is not their fault.
Show them our lists of characteristics of an abusive relationship and questions to ask themselves to assess their situation themselves. Be sure they have the Interval House 24-hour hotline 860-527-0550. All calls are completely confidential.
If you notice injuries, be more direct and ask how they happened. Perhaps say, ‘I’m scared for you.’ If they admit to the abuse, encourage them to get medical attention and ask if they have filed a police report — and offer to go with them.
Other suggestions of things to say:
- I am afraid for your safety.
- I am afraid for the safety of your children.
- It only gets worse.
- I am here for you when you are ready to talk.
- You deserve to be respected, not abused.
- I will help you if you decide you want to leave.
- It happens everywhere.
- Your secrets run your life.
You may also offer to help them create a safety plan to so they are prepared should the situation suddenly worsen. Offer to be one of their people to call with a code word if they need the police to be called.
Even if they do end the relationship, continue to be supportive. Though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Excerpts from Susan Weitzman’s book, Not to People Like Us, Basis Books 2000.