How to help a domestic violence victim

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A few suggestions for helping a survivor of domestic violence.

1.     Listen:
Listen to the victim and be nonjudgmental. Some victims have had had horrific or outrageous acts done to them. They may have been forced to be involved in activities that are shocking. The cultures and backgrounds of the person we work with may be very different from ours.  Each individual is different and reacts to violence with a different background and different set of values.

Give the victim plenty of time to tell you what is happening. Don’t rush. Don’t act harried or hurried. Be reassuring. Avoid rushing to tell the victim what she or he must do. As they talk to you they may come up with the right answers.

Reassure the victim that she or he is not alone and there is help available.

2.     Provide Information:
Be proactive instead of reactive. Find out how to contact your local shelter or program before you need it.

Make sure the victim knows that domestic violence is a crime. Some people do not know this or have the idea that what they are expeirencing doesn’t fit.

Ask the victim if it is safe for them to have the contact information for the shelter. If they feel it is safe then provide them with the information. Sometimes the victim will be afraid the abuser will find the information and it will escalate the violence.

3.     Be encouraging, not enabling.
Encourage the victim to call the local crisis center or police department. Unless the victim is in immediate danger try to avoid calling the police on behalf of the victim. It is not unheard of for a victim to beg a family member or friend to call the police for them; only to have the police arrive and the victim back out because of fear.  Do not go to the scene. Doing so may put you in jeopardy.

If the victim needs a place to stay encourage them to call a shelter. When an abuser can’t find a victim they will begin looking for the victim at the home of family members and friends.   A shelter is not only a secure location but the shelter will have advocates and staff that can help the victim through the legal process and the emotional pain.