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how to support a loved one

It takes courage for someone to step forward and talk about a domestic violence situation. When someone you know opens up, you will probably find yourself not knowing what to say or do. This is 100% normal and you can still help someone navigate this difficult road without having all of the answers. The best thing to offer a victim is a loving, safe, and supportive space.


Keep in mind that when a victim comes forward, they already have a rough time trusting themselves due to control and manipulation. Let them speak without judgment or blame. The victim is generally worried that no one will believe them and if you validate that fear by discounting them, they may shut down and cease to seek help.

Getting out of and healing from a domestic violence situation can be a long road and you are, possibly, the first step in a journey.


Here are some tips for supporting the victim:


Listen to the victim's story by allowing them to talk freely and openly. Coming forward to let you in on what is happening can be very difficult for the victim. The shame and isolation that usually accompanies a violent relationship is hard to overcome. Their reaching out to you is a huge first step that most likely, to them, feels precarious and highly uncertain. Here are some things you can say to make space for the victim's story:

  • "I know this is scary, but I am here for you."

  • "You are not alone. I will be here for you in this process."

  • "I will listen without judgment."

  • "You're brave for seeking support."


Validate what the victim is feeling and what they are reporting. Minimizing the victim's experience or questioning what they did to cause the violence is re-traumatization. The victim needs a listening ear at this point. Here are some important things to say to validate the victim's feelings and their story:

  • "I believe you."

  • "I am sorry this happened to you."

  • "You did not deserve what happened to you."

  • "You are not alone. I am here for you."

  • "No one deserves to be treated this way."


Ask the victim how you can help them. Respect their wishes if they do not want to alert the authorities or press charges. Do not pressure the victim to leave the situation. This can be traumatic and cause the victim to retreat from your help. Search locally for a Domestic Violence Advocacy Center if you do not know where to start. Click here to read more about the struggle to leave a domestic violence relationship. Here are some ways to offer help:

  • "How would you like to go forward in this situation?"

  • "Let's look for resources you can consider."

  • "What do you need from me?"

  • "Are you safe now? Do we need to find a safe place for you?"


Support the victim's decisions. A pivotal part of a victim moving forward is making their own decisions for their future. You may feel compelled to advise the victim, but it is in their best interest to make their own choices about their situation. Pointing out their options and writing out a "pro" and "con" list together, all while letting them make their own decisions, is the best support you can give. Here is what that might sound like:

  • "What do you want to do?"

  • "How can I best support that decision?"


One challenge you might run into is that the victim may want to go back into the relationship. Keep in mind that this is their choice. An abusive relationship can be very difficult to leave for a number of reasons. The victim will know when it is time and what that looks like. You can ask how you can support them and offer to help them create a safety plan.

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