Helping a Friend or Family Member Who is Being Abused

Tell the person who is being abused that you are concerned for their well-being. 

Make it clear that you know about the abuse and that you are concerned because there is a good chance that the abuse will get worse.

Listen without judging

Your friend or family member probably believes the abusive partner’s negative messages. They may feel responsible, ashamed, or inadequate – and afraid to be judged by you. 

Acknowledge that the abuse is not their fault.

What is happening to them is not their fault, and nothing a person does justifies abuse. Tell your friend or family member that abuse is always the fault of the abusive partner, and there is no excuse for it – not alcohol or drugs, financial pressure, mental illness, depression, jealousy.

Be supportive and patient.

Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times, and they will need your support even more during those times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them with “should” or “If I were you, I would…” statements.

Understand that change is a process.

They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Each time they leave, they learn more about themselves, their situation, and the resources available to them. Let them know that help is available and there are people they can talk to. WIT’s LifeLine number is 215.751.1111.

Encourage them to reach out to others who can provide help and guidance, such as a local domestic violence agency that offers support and counseling. 

Women In Transition is located in Center City Philadelphia and offers free supportive counseling in person and over the phone, through our LifeLine (215.751.1111). For crisis situations, call the 24-hour Philadelphia Domestic Violence Hotline (1.866.723.3014).

Help them create a safety plan.

It’s a good idea for them to keep money, important documents, a change of clothes, and an extra set of keys in a safe place, such as at a friend or neighbor’s house. For more information about safety planning: 

Do not confront the abusive partner. It could be dangerous for you and your friend or family member.

Keep in mind that you cannot "rescue" the person. They have to be the one to decide it's time to get help. Support them no matter what their decision. 

Call WIT’s LifeLine yourself 215.751.1111

for free supportive counseling and resources as you support your friend or family member.