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You suspect your friend is in an abusive relationship. What do you do now? It’s tough to know what to say and how to help when the stakes are so high. Start by taking a compassionate approach.
Find a private and safe place. Go for a walk together and then back to your home. Be sure you both have enough time set aside to really talk.
Focus on your friend — not the abuser. You may want to say negative things about your friend’s partner, but don’t. They likely have mixed feelings, and if you go on the attack, they may defend the abuser. Instead, try: “I know you love him/her. But I’ve noticed he/she doesn’t always treat you well. I’m concerned about you.”
Listen without judgment. Your friend stays in the relationship for his/her own reasons — even if you don’t agree with them. Be supportive without giving advice. A confrontational “you should” approach isn’t helpful. Being a good listener will make it more likely that your friend continues to confide in you.
Plan for how your friend may react. She/he could react in any number of ways: deny the abuse, be angry with you, tell you to mind your own business, or cry. Think ahead of time about how you’ll handle each scenario.
Ask questions instead of lecturing. If your friend denies any abuse, take the focus off the abuser. Instead, ask: “Can we focus on you? Have you noticed feeling differently since you started dating her?”
Be patient. Even though you may be upset about the situation, or sick of dealing with it, hang in there. It can take time to decide to leave, and then several stages of leaving and returning before someone finds the courage to end a relationship for good.
Encourage your friend’s strengths. Being with someone who is abusive is hard on a person’s confidence. Your friend can probably use some encouragement. Stay positive, remind your friend of his/her good qualities, and that you’ll always be here when he/she needs you.
Suggest s/he talk to parents or another trusted adult. You can connect your friend with knowledgeable adults or community resources like Cornerstone. Decide if you need to let someone else know what is going on.
Take care of yourself. Although being a source of support can make a huge difference, knowing that you can only do so much is important too. These are decisions that your friend has to make. Give yourself permission to be supportive but detached from the situation if it gets to be too much for you to handle.
You can also talk with an advocate at Cornerstone to learn more ways to help your friend. We’re here 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Just call 952-884-0330.