How to Help an Abuse Victim

Things you SHOULD DO:

Physical safety is the first priority.  If you believe a victim to be in danger, tell them and help them plan an emergency exit. Here are some other things you can do to help:

Violence is never okay or justifiable

Their safety and their children’s safety are always the most important issues

Abuse is a crime

They do not cause the abuse

They are not to blame for their partner’s behavior

They cannot change their partner’s behavior

Apologies and promises will not end the violence

They are not alone

They are not crazy

Abuse is not loss of control; it is a means of control

  • Discuss how the violence affects the children
  • Be encouraged that every time they reach out for help they are gaining the emotional strength needed to make effective decisions.  They may be too fearful and immobilized or confused to take any step immediately
  • Although police can be asked to accompany a victim in going home to retrieve personal belongings, encourage the victim to be prepared for the possibility of leaving home in a hurry.  The victim should have necessary documents or photocopies ready, as well as important items such as:

Credit cards, cash, bank books

Passport, birth certificates, citizenship papers

House keys


Children’s favorite toy, clothing, etc…

Things you SHOULD NOT DO:

An abuse victim needs our support and encouragement in order to make choices that are right for them.  However, there are some forms of advice that are not useful and even dangerous for them to hear:

  • Do not judge or give advice
  • Don’t criticize them for staying with the abuser, but share information on how abuse increases over time without intervention
  • Don’t try to diminish their feelings about their partner 
  • Don’t tell them what to do, when to leave or when not to leave
  • Don’t tell them to go back to the situation and try a little harder
  • Don’t rescue them by trying to find quick solutions
  • Don’t suggest you try to talk to their abuser to straighten things out
  • Don’t place yourself in danger by confronting the abuser
  • Don’t tell them that they should stay for the sake of the children
  • Never recommend joint family or marital counseling in situations of emotional or physical abuse.  It is dangerous for the victim and will not lead to a resolution that is in their best interest.  If they want counseling, encourage separate counseling for them.

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