As Domestic Violence Awareness month in October slowly approaches, it’s a good time to give attention to the victims whose voices continuously go unheard.
People don’t regularly talk about domestic violence in day-to-day conversation. Truth is, domestic violence happens way more often than people think. According to NCADV, nearly 20 people per minute are being abused by their partner in the United States. When you put those numbers into perspective, these victims can be someone you know, even a close friend.
If you suspect a friend may be a victim of violence, don’t feel helpless. There are many ways you can get involved. Follow these tips to support a friend who may be caught in this unfortunate situation.
Beware of the Warning Signs
It might not be that obvious to notice when someone is going through this. There are different types of abuse that can be physical, sexual, and/or psychological. Instances of constant criticism, body-shaming or financial control all count as acts of domestic violence, as stated by the domestic violence lawyers from Scott & Matteson Family Law firm.
Here are some of the common signs to be aware of:
- Bruising around the neck or wrist area
- Changes in attitude and behavior
- Having to ask permission to go out without their partner
- Partner keeps them from speaking to family members and close friends
- Fear to answer their phone calls
Be Their Support System
It’s not unusual that some domestic violence victims don’t report their incidents of abuse to the police. Often times, they are afraid no one will believe them or they blame themselves for what’s happening. In extreme cases, their abusers will threaten them if they dare tell anyone about it.
It’s a lonely world for victims suffering abuse so it’s important that your friend knows you are their support system. Once they are ready to talk, make sure to keep an open mind. Allow them the opportunity to speak freely without making judgments. Chances are they will explain the situation in detail if they feel your trust and safety. Every situation of abuse is different so don’t compare theirs to others. Lastly, reassure them the abuse isn’t their fault and that they are not alone.
Let Them Know What Resources Are Out There
If your friend is asking for advice on what to do, give them a list of resources that are available. Maybe your friend is not ready to tell their parents or another family member about it yet. If that’s the case, the next important step is to talk to someone who can offer professional help.
It may be easier for them to confide in others who have been victims themselves, or to professionals who do not know them on a personal level.
24- Hour National Hotline
The 24-hour national hotline is available for anyone looking to talk about their situation in a confidential matter. Dial-in at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can also chat with someone online.
Local Domestic Violence Programs
There are help centers located nationwide that provide free counseling, shelter, and legal services. Visit the site and enter your area zip code to see what centers are nearby. Encourage your friend to use these free resources, and offer to go with them if possible.
Create a Safety Plan
Once your friend makes their own decision to leave their partner, come up with a safety plan together. Make sure the plan includes the details of where your friend will sleep, where they will go, and what the next steps are going forward. Prepare for this day in advance. That way, if an altercation were to happen your friend will know what to do and where to go immediately.
File a Police Report and Seek Legal Advice
It cannot be stressed enough how serious domestic violence acts are. If any physical abuse is present in the situation, immediately call the police and file a report. Even if it goes against your friend’s wishes, physical violence can result in serious injury, possibly death. Protect your friend and get justice. Consider getting legal advice from a lawyer and discover your options, such as getting a restraining order.