In the 11 years I have served as the Domestic Violence Investigator for Sagadahoc County, my job has morphed considerably over time....
What to Do if You Suspect Someone is Being Abused
You’ve learned that your co-worker, friend, neighbor, or relative is being abused at home. What can you do to help?
Inform yourself. Gather all the information you can about domestic violence . This website is a great place to start; pay attention to the “Other Resources” sections to connect with further reliable sources of information.
Call the helpline. The eight domestic violence resource centers of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence not only offer victims safety, but also provide advocacy, support, and other needed services. Victim’s advocates can be an excellent source of support for both you and the person you want to help. Do not call a project for an abused person. Call to educate yourself and find out how to be most supportive and helpful to someone who is being abused. “People have an absolute right to be free of bodily harm,” said Phyl Rubinstein, nationally recognized domestic violence expert formerly at the University of New England. “We must act on that belief.”
Ask the question… And believe the answer. Often, people experiencing abuse are experiencing isolation and control. They are frequently told that no one really cares what happens to them, or that no one will believe them. By asking them about their experience, without judgment or agenda, you are sending the message that you care about what is happening to them..
Initiating this conversation can be difficult. Some tips to help:
|Tell what you see||"I noticed a bruise on your arm..."|
|Express concern||"I am worried about you."|
|Show support||"No one deserves to be hurt."|
|Refer them for help||"I have the phone number to..."|
If your friend begins to talk about the abuse:
Just Listen: Listening can be one of the best ways to help. Don’t imagine you will be the one person to “save” you friend. Instead, recognize that it takes a lot of strength and courage to live with an abusive partner, and understand your role as a support person.
Keep it Confidential: Don't tell other people that they may not want or be ready to tell. If there is a direct threat of violence, tell them that you both need to tell someone right away.
Provide Information, Not Advice: Give them the phone number to the helpline (1.866.834.HELP) or to their local domestic violence resource center. Be careful about giving advice. They know best how to judge the risks they face.
Be There and Be Patient: Coping with abuse takes time. Your friend may not do what you expect them to do when you expect them to do it. If you think it is your responsibility to fix the problems, you may end up feeling frustrated. Instead, focus on building trust, and be patient.