Roughly four million women in America experience domestic abuse. One in four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Men are victims of nearly three million physical assaults.
Domestic violence doesn't discriminate on gender, age, race or religion. Everyone may fall victim to it, and most domestic abuse incidents are NEVER reported. As you see, this is a problem often brushed to the side and conveniently forgotten about.
What do we know about domestic violence? Well, for starters, the victims are subjected not only to physical abuse, but also to emotional and psychological abuse. With bruised bodies, come battered egos and the need to impose intimidation by the abuser.
Fear, pain, death: These are all constantly lurking in the back of the victim's mind. So, what does a victim of domestic violence need from you?
1. Never I say, “ I told you so."
The last thing your friend wants to hear is “I told you so,” or “I never liked him/her." They know they've made a mistake. They know what they've been through better than you do, and they are terrified. They've finally made the step towards recovery, and the last thing they need is you reminding them you saw it coming the whole time.
This isn't about you. It's about them. So, even if you hated the ex, forget the comments that might bring up those nasty memories. Remember, they're looking toward the future now. Your job is to help them heal from the past and give them the courage to keep going.
This isn't about you. It's about them.
2. Be supportive.
And I don't mean just having a lunch date and being a shoulder to cry on. I mean REAL support.
Domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness among families in America. Make sure your friend isn't letting go of their essentials, i.e. their job, school and finances.
Nobody says you have to babysit them, but showing support by catching the little things can go a long way.
3. Do not get in the middle.
Should the abuser come back, do NOT get involved in the altercation. Don't bash them for allowing the ex to drop by and "speak their peace." And definitely do not contact the ex or get in the middle of that clusterfuck.
Do what is right: Call the cops. Always. One phone call could save a friend's life.
Abusers impose fear and pain because they need to feel powerful. They need to feel better than everybody else, and they will not hesitate to hurt you, too, if you get in the way. If they show up, CALL THE COPS.
4. Promote mental and physical health.
We all know the best way to recover is to learn self-love, but self-love is hard to accomplish, even by those who haven't been through the horror of domestic violence.
So, unless you're a psychiatrist, leave the important advice for the professionals. If you don't know what to say, then don't say anything. Motivate your friend to go to therapy. Let someone who's equipped for these tragedies deal with the mental repercussions of the abuse.
You? You take them to kickboxing and yoga and promote exercise. Everyone knows we all feel better after punching that bag or running that mile-long bridge. Whatever the outlet, be there for them. They need you. It's a long road, but it's worth walking. (Or, in this case, jogging it).
It's a long road, but it's worth walking.
5. Keep your eyes open.
Your friend might be embarrassed to tell you certain things, and that's normal. They're confused, scared and lost. Keep your eyes open for shifty behavior or change.
Sometimes, all a victim knows how to do is be a victim. They've become “comfortable” with the notion that this is just the way things work. They, themselves, might reach out to the ex and want them back in their lives. This tends to happen because they're scared of the future.
They've lived for so long under this abuse that they don't know how else to function. Be there. Be aware. Be a friend and make sure you're paying attention, even to what isn't being said with words.