Nearly 25 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men have been victims of domestic violence, according to the American Bar Association.
If someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you might want to help. Unfortunately, you can’t rescue someone unless she is willing to leave the relationship, and sometimes the victim decides to stay or leaves and returns multiple times, according to WomensHealth.gov. Be patient and supportive, offering assistance wherever you can without putting you or your friend into danger.
The Abuse Cycle
Many abused partners don't want to leave or be rescued. The victim hopes that the abuser will follow through with the promise to end the abuse. Unfortunately, the cycle usually begins again. Weeks or months could pass between abusive episodes, but the peaceful stage doesn't last. Tension builds and the abuser becomes frustrated and argumentative. The abused partner attempts to pacify and soothe the abuser. Fighting escalates and the abuser snaps, abusing the partner. The abuser swears not to do it again and blames outside sources for the blowup. The victim may love the abuser, forgiving the abuse and hoping that this time it will stop and they can live peacefully and happy together.
Talk to your friend about what she needs, such as shelter, transportation, counseling and medical care so she can remain safe. She needs a safe destination and concrete escape plans, which could include avoiding family and mutual friends. Pack cash, identification, insurance papers, deeds and car title, evidence of the violence, banking information, clothing, medication, extra keys and important phone numbers. Include provisions for any children. Explore local abuse survivor organizations to discover which program best fits your friend's needs.
Leaving is the most dangerous time in the abuse cycle, resulting in 70 percent of the reported injuries and murders, according to an America Now report. If she chooses to enter a shelter, take her there or to a shelter drop-off point -- some shelters don't allow non-residents to know the shelter location as a safety precaution. Pick her up as soon as she is sure the abuser is gone for an extended period of time to maximize the chance that she won't be found. False trails, such as a story that she's visiting a sick friend, could keep the abuser busy while she establishes a new home.
Once your friend escapes the abuser, suggest he get a restraining order and visit the local police station to alert them to his situation. He should tell his boss and other close contacts not to reveal his location. He will need an attorney if he and the abuser were married. He and any kids could benefit from counseling to recover from the effects of the abuse and to identify abusive red flags so he won't enter another abusive relationship. Continue to help by supporting your friend with loving and encouraging texts, and phone calls, affirming that he made a wise choice in getting out.
Electing to Stay
If your friend is too afraid to leave, provide emotional support by assuring her of your concern and willingness to help. Offer numbers for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-787-3224), National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and local resources for domestic violence victims. Suggest counseling and participation in social groups to give your friend needed contacts outside the home. Check in with her and don't judge her choice. The time could come when she is ready to accept your escape offer, and the more prepared you are, the easier the escape will be.