If you know someone who is hurting, help is available. Feel free to reach out to a shelter if you have questions/concerns prior to speaking to your friend, colleague or family member. Your conversation will remain confidential.
If your friend/colleague/family member is being abused by their partner, they are good chances that they feel embarrassed, ashamed and alone. How can you help? Your most important job is to listen. While your first instinct may be to take action, resist that urge. Give your support by showing concern, listening and being there when needed. Don’t offer specific advice about leaving but instead be a link to resources in the community.
It must be the victim’s decision to leave. The most dangerous time for a woman is when she has made the decision to leave the abusive relationship. There is nothing simple about her situation. Resist judgment. If you are confident that there is an explicit threat to cause physical harm or if you are witnessing the violence directly, do call the police. Be sure to contact the child protection hotline if children are in danger.
Let your friend/colleague/family member know that you believe what they have told you – chances are the situation is worse than they are letting on. Abuse rarely occurs only once. Encourage, but do not pressure, them to talk about the violence, allowing them to say as much or as little as they want.
Offer to accompany them to the local shelter/outreach program, police station, or any other place. Your presence will help them be strong and will show in ways that words can never do, that they are not alone. No matter how tempting it is to bad-mouth their partner, stop yourself. Most people love their partners and want the abuse to stop, but want the relationship to continue.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Is your friend/colleague/family member reluctant to talk about why they are sad, anxious or depressed? Have you noticed that they drinking more or taking pills to calm their nerves? Have you seen physical injuries? Do they try to avoid you when you meet on the street? Do they try to cut your time together short? Do they make excuses at the last minute why they cannot visit you, or, have they stopped seeing you completely?
If you have answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, you have reason to be concerned. The only way to know for sure is to ask the person if they are being or have been abused by their partner – emotionally, physically and/or verbally.
If your friend/colleague/family member has been physically abused, offer to accompany them. Find out if the children have also been hurt, and if so, they should also receive medical attention. Ask them if they want to report the assault to the police or RCMP. Help them find a safe place to stay. The Shelter Safe map can help you to locate a shelter nearby. Make sure that they have a safety plan.
ENCOURAGE HER TO MAKE HER OWN DECISIONS
A person who has been abused may come to believe that they have no control in their life and no ability to make decisions. To help them feel more confident and regain control, let them know that there are no simple solutions but that change is possible. The first step is to look after their safety.
Point out different options available and help them to evaluate each one. Let the person know that you will stand by them no matter what they decide. Don’t give up on them even though the decisions they make are different from the ones you might make. It does not mean they do not want or need your support.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
Consider talking with a professional who works in the area of violence and abuse about your feelings, fears, frustrations and reactions to the abuse. Counsellors often assist individuals whose friends, colleagues and family members are being abused. You can do this without identifying the person you care about. They can also help you identify safe options you can take with respect to both the perpetrator and the victim.