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How to Help a Friend

Find help through Doorways for Women and Families

As a friend, family member or co-worker of someone in an unhealthy or violent relationship, you may be the first person to recognize your loved one is not safe. There are many things you can do to maintain your relationship with them and assist them in building a safety net for them, their children and their pets. Below are a few suggestions.

Let them know that you are concerned for their safety.

Help your friend, family member or co-worker recognize the abuse. Tell them you see what is going on and that you want to help.

Be supportive and acknowledge that the situation is very difficult and scary.

Help them recognize that what is happening is not their fault, reassure them that they are not alone, and let them know that there is help and support available. Listen to your friend. Remember it may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen to them.

Be nonjudgmental. Respect the decisions of your friend, family member or co-worker.

They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to make them feel guilty. They will need your support even more during those times.

If the relationship ends, continue to be supportive.

Even though the relationship was abusive, they may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will need your support.

Encourage them to talk to people who can provide help and guidance.

Find a local domestic violence agency such as Doorways that provides counseling or support groups. If they need to go to the police, court or a lawyer, offer to go along for moral support.

Remember you cannot “rescue” your friend, family member or co-worker.

Although it is difficult to see someone you care about being hurt, ultimately the person being hurt has to be the one to decide they want to do something about it. It’s important for you to support them and help them find a way to safety and peace.

Help them develop a safety plan.

Assist in creating a safety plan in the event that they need to flee their home. See safety plans based on the type of safety planning your loved one needs.

Call a hotline.

Doorways provides shelter and services to individuals and families in Arlington, Virginia. If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in our community, call Arlington’s 24-hour Domestic & Sexual Violence Hotline 703-237-0881 for information and support. Please call 911 if you are experiencing a life-threatening situation. Not in Arlington? Please see alternative resources here. Specially trained advocates are always available to support you as well as your loved one.