Do you know someone who is being controlled or abused by their spouse or partner?

If so, it can be hard to know what to do. You may naturally want to “rescue” them from the relationship. However, it is important to remember that they are the experts in their own situation. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships.

Supporting a Survivor

Leaving or attempting to leave an abusive relationship is often the most dangerous time for a survivor. Therefore, it is important to start by listening. Abuse is about power and control, so one of the most important ways you can help a person in an abusive relationship is to consider how you might give power back to them. Usually this can happen when you’re able to hear and believe what the survivor is saying, and support them in making decisions that are right for them.


steps you can take to support a survivor of domestic abuse

  • Start the Conversation
    • Find a safe and confidential time and location to talk privately to the person who may be experiencing abuse.
    • Let them know that you care about them and express the concerns that you have. For example, you may say: “I’ve noticed that your partner says degrading things to you/doesn’t let you go out as much/puts you down in front of other people/etc. I care about you and think you deserve to be treated with respect. Is there anything you want to talk about?”).
    • If your friend/loved one is defensive or unwilling to talk, respect what they are saying and don’t force the topic. Let them know that you’re available if they would ever like to talk.
  • Listen
    • Hear the concerns that the survivor is sharing without attempting to “fix” their situation or to provide an immediate solution.
    • Develop trust and rapport by listening with acceptance and without judgement.
    • Learn to read between the lines. An individual may not identify as a “victim” – or see their spouse/partner as an “abuser”, but they may share information that provides you with the opportunity to recognize red flags.
  • Believe
    • Start by believing. Avoid asking questions that could cause someone to believe you distrust or judge what they are sharing.
    • Trauma can affect a survivor’s memory. They may struggle to remember details of the story or a sequence of events. Recognize that stories may sometimes be fragmented.
    • Validate their choices and acknowledge their concerns. Show recognition of the hardships or difficult decisions they are facing.
  • Offer Support
    • Express your concerns for their safety and well-being without judgement.
    • Offer options and referrals to community resources without coercing or pressuring them to take steps they may not be ready to make.
    • Assure them that they are not at fault and do not deserve to be abused.
    • Do not disclose confidential information.
    • Offer to help them to create a safety plan and allow the survivor to take the lead in developing a plan that will work for them. Remember, the survivor is the expert in their own experience.
    • Support the survivor’s decisions and choices, even if they are not the choices you wish they would make. Remain open and let them know they are not alone.
    • Ask them what you can do to continue to offer support.
  • Stay Connected
    • Let them know the ways in which you are able to stay connected and to offer support. Be sure to also set and communicate healthy boundaries that account for your own safety, needs and self-care.
    • Ask how you can stay connected and continue to offer support in a safe way (ex. find a regular time to meet for coffee, talk on the phone, etc.).
    • With the survivor’s permission, follow up with next steps that you can take to assist them in attaining their goals and in getting connected to resources
    • Learn more about domestic abuse, local resources and how you can be supportive. The resources below may be a helpful start!
  • Resources for Survivors of Domestic Violence and their Families
    • Safe Harbor – Emergency shelter, counseling for adults and children, transitional housing, case management, assistance with Orders of Protection, support groups, domestic abuse educational classes for victims, parenting classes, prevention education, outreach. Serving the four-county area of Greenville, Pickens, Anderson and Oconee in South Carolina.
    • Compass of Carolina – Counseling for adults and children, domestic abuse educational classes for victims, batterer intervention classes for perpetrators
    • SC Legal Services – Free legal assistance in a wide variety of civil (non-criminal) legal matters to eligible low income residents of South Carolina.
    • SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (SCCADVASA) – Network and list of victim service agencies throughout the state of South Carolina.
    • National Domestic Violence Hotline – Connection to domestic abuse victim service programs throughout the United States. Website also has domestic abuse and healthy relationships educational information and a safety planning guide.
  • Resources for Those Who Know Someone Who Is Experiencing Domestic Abuse

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