How Can I help a Friend or Family Member Who is Being Abused?

Please  contact your local domestic violence program or the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 to discuss your concerns and questions.

Don’t be afraid to let this person know that you are concerned for her* safety. Tell her you see what is going on and that you want to help. Help your friend recognize that what is happening is not “normal” and that she deserves a healthy, non-violent relationship
Acknowledge that she is in a very difficult and scary situation. Let your friend or family member know that the abuse is not her fault. Reassure her that she is not alone and that there is help and support out there.
Remember that you cannot “rescue” her. Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately the person getting hurt has to be the one to decide that she want to do something about it. It’s important for you to support her and help her find a way to safety and peace in her own time.
Be supportive. Listen to your friend or family member. Remember that it may be difficult for her to talk about the abuse. Let her know that you are available to help whenever she may need it. What she need most is someone who will believe and listen to her.
Be non-judgmental. Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. She may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize her decisions or try to guilt her. She will need your support even more during those times.
Help her to develop a safety plan. Contact a local domestic violence program for more information on how to safety plan with your friend.
Encourage her to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.
If she ends the relationship, continue to be supportive of her. Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. She will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.
Encourage her to talk to people who can provide help and guidance. Find a local domestic violence agency that provides counseling or support groups. Offer to go with her to talk to family and friends. If she has to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.
Take care of yourself. Witnessing the pain of someone you care about can take its toll, and you may even experience vicarious trauma. Seek the help and support that you need, while still respecting your friend’s privacy and confidentiality.

Adapted from

More resources:

Repairing the Harm: How Family and Friends Can Help Battered Women and their Children  “Most likely it will be you, a family member or friend, who a woman turns to if she needs help, but you might not know what to say or do. The stories shared in this guide will help you
understand what battered women and children experience when living with a batterer and provide insights about how your response can help or how it can drive the wedge deeper. It is a result of nationwide discussions with battered women, adults who as children lived with a father or stepfather who battered their mother, and child advocates who have worked directly with children.”

*Because the vast majority of domestic violence is committed by men against women in heterosexual relationships, this website may use the female gender pronoun when referring to the victim/survivor. We encourage helping professionals to be gender inclusive by using gender-neutral language when working with individuals, while also understanding gender as a construct that has implications on gender-based violence in both heterosexual and same-gender relationships. All of the information on this website is relevant for male victims and for individuals in same-gender relationships.