How can I help a friend experiencing abuse?
How to be a supportive friend.
- Never blame them for the abuse - abuse is never the victim’s fault
- Tell them, “It’s not your fault," and "You don’t deserve to be hurt”
- Let them talk, don’t interrupt, and believe them
- Call out the abusive behavior, but don't put down their dating partner. Your friend will likely get defensive and may not feel like you're a safe person to talk to in the future
- Your friend may not be ready to leave their relationship, support their choices
- Show your friend that you are a safe person to talk to and you'll support them with their decisions
- Help them safety plan, and make sure they're safe
- Suggest help and resources for your friend, such as the TAP808, the crisis text line 741-741, or other community resources.
Getting help isn't always easy.
But it's a lot easier knowing you don't have to do it alone.
Warning signs your friend may be in an abusive relationship.
- Lower self esteem/depressed
- Drastically changing their appearance/behavior
- Stops hanging out with friends/family
- Blames themselves for abuse
- Social media presence changes
- Attached to phone when not around partner; afraid to miss text/call
- Sensitive to touch
- Heavy makeup/long clothing to cover up
- Makes excuses for dating partner
- Slacking in responsibility (school, job, etc.)
- Says they can't talk to/hang out with certain people because of their partner
But what if my friend is being abusive?
It can be hard to admit when someone you care about is causing harm in their relationship. A friend might even be abusing their dating partner. Is it our responsibility to step in and provide support to an abuser? How can we reach out to a friend that’s perpetrating violence and get them to change their behavior?
Warning signs that a friend is being abusive:
Shares explicit or nude photos to friends or online without the consent of their dating partner
Talks in a condescending way about their dating partner
Brags about harming or hurting dating partner
Adheres to strict gender roles
Believes they have the right to make all the decisions in their dating relationship
Minimizes the fact that they isolate their partner from family, friends, and social media
Discusses tactics for how they’ve controlled a dating partner
Stalks their partner’s whereabouts through social media, cellphone, and in person
Sends threatening texts, comments, DMs or voice mails
Expects partner to follow all their rules and decisions without complaint
Limits what their partner wears, eats, or where they can go
Has a history of being abusive
Comes from a family where abuse is common and has become normalized
Has very demeaning beliefs about women or men
Is prone to breaking objects when enraged
Believes they should have all their power and control in their relationships
Can be egotistical, narcissistic, and sociopathic at times
Finds joy in harming others, fighting, and killing plants or animals
Forces partner to use drugs or alcohol
How to talk to someone who is being abusive
- Tell them that abuse is never okay and affects everyone in their life
- Help your friend take responsibility for their actions
- Remind them it’s never okay to use jealousy, anger or insecurity to control others
- Explain that there’s no excuse for being abusive: blaming the abuse on stress, childhood upbringing, or drugs / alcohol is not okay
- Explain that there are legal consequences and they could lose the people they care about
- Tell them that with support they can change their behavior
- Discuss healthy traits in a relationship
- Suggest help and resources
In some cases, a friend may be reluctant to change their behavior. They may insist there’s no problem, minimize the effects of their control, or even blame the abuse on their partner. Some people, when called out for abuse, equate that friend’s concern as desire for their dating partner. In this case, it can be safer to talk about what you see when joined by a group of friends or peers. This decreases the likelihood of a violent response, and tells the abuser that their behavior is so problematic it has become common knowledge to the general public.
If ever you fear that an abusive friend could retaliate, against you or their dating partner, be sure to have a safety plan in place. This could be phone numbers or links to resources, or even a restraining order. Plan wisely, and find a place and time that’s safe and public.