Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) does not choose a specific time or place to strike. Thus, let us remain vigilant when it happens in our communities’ bounds or even inside our homes. We must be open to help an abused friend and extend our hand to other victims too.
However, remember that when helping an abused friend, the solution we present won’t be to leave right away. Because for sure your friend has a feeling of shame or embarrassment about her situation. As a result, she will likely become defensive and stop sharing information with you. Or yet, possibly even cutting you out of their life which you don’t want to happen, right? Now, it is also essential to have in mind that she may plan to stay at least temporarily in the relationship. And if she sees that you hold a negative opinion of her decision, she may isolate herself from you.
What to bear in mind before reaching out to your friend
It is frightening when you care about an abused friend and decide to take responsibility and rescue her. You will want to help her “get out” but remember that helpers who try to “boss” people into fast action may cause further problems for victims. According to experts, it is because the victim feels that she is being abused and controlled. You may only cause her to distance herself from you if you push her to do something she is not yet ready to do or not comfortable doing.
So, how can you help an abused friend?
You can try these practical tips in helping your friend to break free from the cage of abuse:
Start a conversation in a positive and calm way.
Talk one-on-one and in a private place with your friend. Give your pleasant statements, such as “Masaya ako na makakasama at kausap ulit kita ngayon.” To best help her, you will need to be a support to confide and speak frankly to. Also, she will continue to seek your counsel if you don’t panic and do your best to make her feel comfortable and protected. It would also help if you never start an argument by scaring her, getting angry, or accusing her of wrongdoing.
Be a listener.
So, instead of making it a top-down approach (or iyong ikaw ang masusunod), take your friend’s lead when it comes to discussing the matter. Allow the dialogue to flow naturally since there is a good chance that it will be difficult for your friend to discuss her relationship issues. Yet, it would help if you kept in mind to make her feel that she is not alone and that you are willing to help.
Let her identify the problem on her own.
For the conversation to be effective, it should focus on problematic habits in the relationship while creating a safe space for your friend to discuss them. There are many situations where our first impulse is to identify a relationship as “abusive” because we want to stress out the problem. It enables your friend to think about how this makes them feel. Be open and honest about how you feel if someone engages in harmful conduct. Suppose you can get your friend to see what behavior is and is not proper in a relationship, then you’ve already made a huge first step. Encourage her to figure things out for herself and validate her sentiments.
Make her feel understood.
The number of people who acknowledge themselves as victims of domestic violence is relatively low, making it likely that your friend does not want to be recognized as a victim. To be truly helpful, make yourself available and emotionally open to your friend. Let your friend know that you aren’t putting them down, instead make her feel you understand her.
Starting a candid discussion about marital problems can make your loved ones feel less alone. But, keep the focus on your friend’s predicament. Also, be careful not to distract the conversation. In the first instance, make it seem like a simple transaction between friends. Then, make it appear as though it is an interchange between a therapist and a patient or a crisis counselor and a victim.
Don't hold your friend responsible for her horrid situation.
By being supportive and patient, you may help your friend realize that her experiences are not typical. And that she is not responsible for her abuser’s actions. Some victims might believe that their actions caused the abuse, while others know that this is not the case. Though we are all responsible for our actions, regardless of the circumstance, still any form of abuse is always unacceptable.
Tell her about your concerns.
When you help your friend realize the abuse, you empower her. Explain that you’ve noticed what’s happening and you wish to assist in any way you can.
Refrain from passing judgment.
Victims may remain in abusive relationships for several reasons. Treat your friend’s decisions with respect. People in long-term relationships may return to the partnership multiple times. So, criticizing or making her feel guilty is always the wrong approach. Always respect her decision and she will be much more reliant on your help when she’s ready to finally leave or take the necessary action.
Introduce helpful information to her.
Would you be willing to go along with them to chat with friends and family regarding their situation? If yes, offer your company. You can also invite her to browse resources about Anti-VAWC with you, say for example the videos we have at our FB Page. Offer to accompany her with full moral support. You can even offer to go with her if she must, to the police, court, social worker, or a lawyer.
Ask her permission.
Avoid doing something without her permission as this can be both disrespectful and dominating. Victims must choose to either report to authorities or leave themselves. It’s best to encourage them to lean in a direction by asking questions like, “Would you be open to obtaining medical attention, calling a hotline, reporting the abuser, or going to the police?”
Keep in mind that the abusive partner might also be reading texts, emails, and listening to phone messages and conversations you have with your friend or loved one. Until you’re pretty sure it’s safe to open up, choose your words carefully. Instead of saying, “Is this a good time to talk?” call and ask, “Is now a good time to talk?”
Instill in them the tools they need to be able to act when they are ready.
Sharing helpful resources as mentioned above is a good example. Also, emphasize the importance of learning the phone number or hotlines of local police stations, barangay personnels, or the local domestic violence shelter near her. In the event things get worse, they may always reach out to these hotlines. Suggest that she prepares a plan to keep safe in the event of leaving (a practical or actionable plan that includes ways to stay safe while in the relationship, planning to leave, or after leaving).
Always remember that you are there to guide and help an abused friend. Thus, controlling her actions and decisions must not be shown along the process. By saying process, be patient and trust that in time, she will take action. But if you cannot accomplish your goal to rescue her with these tips, then it’s better to ask for help from the right individuals (barangay officials, police officers, shelters, churches, or social workers) to handle the situation.
If you have follow up questions, you may reach out to us in our Facebook Page and we’ll do our best to answer your inquiry. By the way, because you read until this point, I have a gift for you. Click the link below.