Helping a Friend or Family Member Who is an Abuser
It is difficult to see someone you care about hurt others. Remember that as a friend or family member your actions can make a difference. Ultimately, the abuser is the only person who can decide to change, but there are things you can do to encourage this change.
What Do I Need to Know?
It is not easy for abusers to admit that their abuse is a choice and accept responsibility for the abuse. The abuser may benefit from having control over their partner and may turn to you to help justify the abuse. Do not support the abuse in any way. Remember, this does not mean you are turning against your friend or family member; you are helping him or her have the healthy relationship that he or she deserves.
What Can I Do?
- Learn about domestic violence so you can help your friend or family member recognize their behaviors.
- Your friend or family member may try to blame the victim for the abuse. Don’t support these feelings or help to justify the abuse.
- Help the abuser focus on the victim’s feelings and the serious harm the victim is experiencing because of the abuse. Don’t support the abuser’s efforts to nimize the severity of their abusive behavior.
- Don’t ignore abuse that you see or hear about. Your silence helps the abusive person to deny that their behavior is wrong.
- Convince the abuser that getting professional help is important. Encourage him or her to find a program dedicated to ending domestic violence and have a st of resources ready.
- Stay in touch with your friend or family member about the abuse. Be there to support the abuser to change long-term.
- Remind your friend or family member that change will create a better, healthy relationship for both partners.
- Set an example by having healthy relationships in your own life.
Helping a Friend or Family Member Who is a Victim of Abuse
- Listen. Be there. Don’t be judgmental.
- Be patient. Remember, it will take your friend or family member some time to deal with the crime.
- Help to empower your friend or family member. Rape and sexual violence are crimes that take away an individual’s power, it is important not to compound this experience by putting pressure on them to do things that he or she is not ready to do yet.
- If your friend or family member is considering suicide, give them the number for Careline, Alaska’s statewide toll-free counseling and suicide prevention line: 1-877-266-HELP (4357). You can also call Careline for suggestions on how best to support your friend or family member. Follow-up with the person you care about on a regular basis.
- Let them know that there are resources available.
- Encourage him or her to contact one of the hotlines, but realize that only they can make the decision to get help.
When someone that you care about tells you that they have been a victim of sexual assault or sexual abuse, it can be difficult. You may have a range of reactions that could include:
- You may be very surprised to hear what has happened.
- You might have difficulty figuring out how to respond.
- You might feel angry at the perpetrator for hurting your friend or loved one.
- You might also feel angry at your friend or loved one for not telling you sooner or for telling you something that is hard for you to hear.
- This can be especially true if someone that you know committed the assault.
- You might feel sad for your loved one, for his or her family, or for what this assault may change about both of your lives.
- You might feel anxiety about responding the “right” way to your loved one.
- You might feel anxiety about how this will impact your relationship.
- Depending on the circumstances of your loved one’s assault, you might be concerned that something similar could happen to you.
Keep in mind that almost any emotion is normal.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network:
National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1-800-656-HOPE.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: