One in three women and one in four men in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In 2014, almost 65,800 intimate violence incidents were reported to Illinois law enforcement. Many others went unreported.
In light of recent domestic violence-related tragedies in the region, The Center for Prevention of Abuse is stepping up to promote awareness of the issue. If someone you know is in an abusive relationship, here’s how you can help:
- Approach the other person at a time and place that is safe and confidential.
- Start by expressing concern (i.e., I am concerned someone may be hurting you, and I am worried about your safety.)
- Take the time to listen, and believe what they say.
- Communicate that you care about their safety, that they do not deserve to be hurt, and that the abuse is not their fault.
- Tell them they are not crazy. A person who has been abused often feels upset, depressed, confused and scared. Let them know that these are normal feelings.
- Tell them good things about themselves. Let them know you think they are smart, strong and brave. Their abuser may be tearing down their self-esteem.
- Respect their choices.
- Encourage them to build a wide support system. Help find a support group or encourage them to talk with friends and family.
- Be patient. Self-empowerment may take longer than you want. Go at their pace, not yours.
- Consider calling The Center to learn more about the kinds of help available, to ask questions specific to the situation, and to learn how you can be an effective and supportive ally.
- Do not accuse, diagnose or judge their choices; do not draw conclusions about what they may be experiencing or feeling; and do not judge or criticize their abuser.
- Do not pressure them to leave the abusive relationship. There are many reasons they may be choosing to stay. It is possible their abuser has threatened to hurt them or their children if they try to leave. The abuser may control all of their finances and may have isolated the victim from friends and family, leaving them with few resources of their own. The abuser may have promised to change, and the victim may still love him/her. It is never as simple as encouraging a victim to “just leave,” but by all means, communicate to them that help does exist, and that people in their community care about them and their children and want them to be safe.
- Do not feel the need to be an expert. Do not try to provide counseling or advice, but do connect them to trained people who can help. Call the Center’s crisis hotline at 1-800-559-SAFE, where staff are available 24/7. iBi