Ways to Help a Survivor of Domestic Violence
If you've been keeping up with this series you know how hard it is for a victim of domestic violence to leave the relationship. You have also learned to recognize some signs of a battering personality. Now you are probably wondering what you can do to help.
There are several things that can be done but there is one rule that you absolutely must follow. Keep yourself safe. You cannot help anyone else if you are not physically and emotionally safe. Anytime there is physical violence or if you feel threatened in any way to call 911.
If you are certain that you are safe there are a few things that you can do to help a victim of domestic violence.
Believe the victim and be nonjudgmental as you listen. 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 to our way of thinking.
It's important to take the time to really listen to the other person. The cultures and backgrounds of the person we work with may be very different from ours. We may think that we would react differently to a given situation. In reality, we don't know so it's important to keep an open mind.
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.
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 experiencing 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.
Encourage the victim to call the local crisis center or police department. Unless the victim is in immediate danger that you can hear or see 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.
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. Next on the list is to try the local hotels. A shelter is not only a secure location but they will have advocates and staff that can help the victim through the legal process and the emotional upheaval.
Give the victim only what you are comfortable with and can afford to do. As stated earlier, avoid taking out a loan to help the victim “get on her feet”. This same rule applies to babysitting or child care. Your goal as a support point is to encourage independence and not dependence. Look at these points as you work to create a viable safety plan for the person you are working with.