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How to Help a Friend

If you're seeking guidance on supporting a friend enduring abuse, you're taking a crucial step towards their journey towards a violence-free life. Understand that the person experiencing abuse is the expert in their own situation and you should empower them to make decisions aligned with their safety. Remember that you cannot save or “fix” a person, and ultimately, it will be their choice to leave or not.

It's natural to feel overwhelmed and a myriad of other emotions, from anger towards the abuser to deep concern for your friend's well-being. It's important to remember that abusers purposely isolate their victims from their friends and family so they can continue to abuse them. Your role is to provide support, understanding their complex emotions without judgment. That being said, supporting a friend or a family member can be hard. It is important to acknowledge your limits and to practice self-care.

Pressuring or coercing survivors to "just leave" or threatening to end your friendship can mirror the abuser's control; instead, offer a compassionate ear and resources for informed choices. At The Haven, all services are voluntary, respecting individuals' autonomy. We offer tailored support options, recognizing each person's unique needs and circumstances.


If someone you know is in an abusive relationship, here’s how to help:


  • Approach the person at a time and place that is safe and confidential.

  • Start by expressing concern, such as, I am worried about your safety, I am concerned someone is hurting you.

  • Take the time to listen and believe what they say.

  • Communicate that you care about their safety, that they do not deserve to be hurt, and that the abuse is not their fault.

  • Tell them they are not crazy. A person who has been abused often feels upset, depressed, confused, and scared. Let them know that these are normal feelings.

  • Tell them good things about themselves. Let them know you think they are smart, strong, and brave. Their abuser may be tearing down their self-esteem.

  • Respect their choices.

  • Encourage them to build a wide support system. Help find a support group or encourage them to talk with friends and family.

  • Be patient. Self-empowerment may take longer than you want. Go at their pace, not yours.

​Consider calling The Haven to learn more about the kinds of help available, to ask questions specific to the situation, and to learn how you can be an effective and supportive ally. However, we strongly encourage you have the survivor call us so we can help them directly.

Do Not:

  • Accuse, diagnose, or judge their choices;

  • Do not draw conclusions about what they may be experiencing or feeling;

  • Do not judge or criticize their abuser;

  • Pressure them to leave the abusive relationship. There are many reasons they may choose stay:

    • Their abuser has threatened to hurt them or their children if they try to leave.

    • The abuser may control all of their finances and may have isolated the victim from friends and family, leaving them with very few resources of their own.

    • The abuser may have promised to change, and the victim may still love them.

    • It is never as simple as encouraging a victim to “just leave” but by all means, communicate to them that help does exist, and that people in their community care about them and their children and want them to be safe.

  • Feel the need to be an expert. Do not try to provide counseling or advice, but do connect them to trained people who can help. The Haven staff are available 24/7 to take a call. Our hotline is 1-800-22HAVEN(42836).

**From Center for Prevention of Abuse

Ways to Support A Friend
You can provide essential emotional support by:

  • Acknowledging that their situation is difficult, scary, and brave of them to regain control from.

  • Not judging their decisions and refusing to criticize them or guilt them over a choice they make.

  • Remembering that you cannot “rescue them,” and that decisions about their lives are up to them to make.

  • Not speaking poorly of the abusive partner.

  • Helping them create a safety plan.

  • Continuing to be supportive of them if they do end the relationship and are understandably lonely, upset, or return to their abusive partner.

  • Offering to go with them to any service provider or legal setting for moral support.


You can provide essential emotional support by:

  • ​Help them identify a support network to assist with physical needs like housing, food, healthcare, and mobility as applicable.

  • Help them by storing important documents or a “to-go bag” in case of an emergency situation.

  • Encourage them to participate in activities outside of their relationship with friends and family, and be there to support them in such a capacity

  • Encourage them to talk to people who can provide further help and guidance, like The Haven.

  • If they give you permission, help document instances of domestic violence in their life, including pictures of injuries, exact transcripts of interactions, and notes on a calendar of dates that incidents of abuse occur.

  • Don’t post information about them on social media that could be used to identify them or where they spend time.

  • Help them learn about their formal legal rights and information on domestic violence laws and procedures.

  • With their permission, ensure that others in the buildings where the survivor lives and works are aware of the situation, including what to do (and what not to do) during a moment of crisis or confrontation with an abusive partner.

**From The National Domestic Violence Hotline

No person deserves to be abused.

Everyone deserves healthy relationships.

“The ‘ALL Are Welcome Here’ image was created by the Pennsylvania Cross-Systems Advocacy Coalition, supported by Grant No. 2007-FW-AX-K009, awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations included in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women."  Visit the NRCDV Access Initiative page for more information.

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