For Friends and Family of Domestic Violence Victims

How friends and family can help a victim of domestic violence, physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse.

(and Victims of Physical Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Sexual Abuse)

I know, too well, how you are feeling. Maybe you are a friend of the victim; maybe you are a family member; perhaps you are simply in the next office down the hall. No matter what your relationship to this person, you feel helpless. You feel like you have to stand by and just be a silent witness to the assault.

You want to be able to yank your loved one right out of that awful situation. You want to (at the very least) lock the abuser in a room full of hungry tigers. You see her being hurt by the person who promised to love, honor, and cherish her. You may see bruises, and yet she doesn't leave. You know there must be something you can do, yet you haven't the first clue what it is.

I have to tell you, there is so much you can't do. What you can't do is this: you can't yank her out. You can't explain to her how much better off she will be without him around to berate and abuse. You can't convince her that there is a happier place for her, away from his accusations. You can't make her understand that no matter how many times he apologizes it will happen again and again and again, and it will probably get worse (it could even go from verbal abuse to physical abuse). You can't stop the abuse. You can't talk to the abuser and make him see the error of his ways. Right now, all she hears are his words of apology, because she so desperately wants to believe that there is something she can do to make it right, to make it work, to make him stop.

However, what you can do is much more important. You can be her friend. You can offer a place to stay if it's possible; you can help set up a "secret phrase," and respond instantly to that phrase. You can be the ounce of sanity in the insane world. You can be the one who listens and sympathizes. You can be the one she turns to when he does it again and again and again. You can keep a change of clothes for her and any children, in the event that it does turn "uglier." Sometimes, just knowing there is an avenue of escape makes leaving easier. You can be that avenue.

I know this is hard on you. I have been in both shoes. I have friends right now who are in abusive relationships, and even knowing what I went through, they simply do not see where they are themselves. I don't know when or even if they will ever realize what a predicament they are in, but if and/or when they do, I will be there.

There comes a point in most of these abusive relationships where the victim simply wakes up to reality. Sometimes, the very realization is enough to send her away. Sometimes it takes more. It may be a major thing, such as a trip to the emergency room (where there was no physical violence, physical abuse before), or it may a very small thing, such as a meal carefully prepared being dumped unceremoniously into the garbage because "I don't like it.". There is no way to gauge what will do it. The only thing I can tell you is be patient. Time is the only constant here.


Show her this website. Let her know that there are others, many others, who have been right where she is now. I wish I could give you a "magic wand" to wave, but I can't. All I can do is tell you that God works in a mysterious way, and we all know that He only gives us what He knows we can handle. It takes a very strong woman to put up with what she's going through. weakness is not the issue here. Just be her friend, and be patient.

next: Have an Escape Plan to Get Away From Domestic Violence
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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 14). For Friends and Family of Domestic Violence Victims, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Last Updated: May 5, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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