Everyone deserves to be safe and respected in their relationship.
If someone tells you they are experiencing abuse, you may be the first person they are telling. Listen without judgment or commentary. Once the survivor has shared what they want to say, you can respond in a kind and caring way. You could say:
- This is not your fault.
- No one deserves to be treated this way.
- You deserve to be safe and respected.
- Thank you for telling me.
- I’m concerned for your safety.
- I’m here for you.
- I love you.
Listen. When a survivor tells you what they are experiencing, listen to them. Really listen. Do not try to offer advice, do not tell them what they should do, do not interrupt with more questions, do not try to provide a quick fix (there isn’t one). Listen. Focus on the survivor’s feelings and experiences instead of your own thoughts.
Be patient. When someone experiences trauma like that caused by intimate partner violence, it can affect how they organize thoughts and communicate events that have occurred. This change in communication is a natural response as the brain works to process the harm done. Be patient if their story doesn’t follow a direct timeline.
Recognize the survivor’s strengths. Point out all the ways they have coped and tried to keep themselves safe, even if their actions toward safety have not been entirely successful. Recognize that letting someone know about the abuse and asking for help is an act of courage.
Acknowledge the survivor’s feelings. It is normal for survivors to have many different feelings about their situation and the person using violence. They may feel hope, anger, love, courage, fear, and many other emotions simultaneously or one after another. It can be confusing when the person you love and who was supposed to love you back is using violence against you. Survivors have a right to express those feelings.