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To Be an Anchor in the Storm: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women

To Be an Anchor in the Storm: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women

Victim Support Handbook: Helping People Cope with Crime

Victim Support Handbook: Helping People Cope with Crime

The One-Hour Activist : The 15 Most Powerful Actions You Can Take to Fight for the Issues and Candidates You Care About

The One-Hour Activist : The 15 Most Powerful Actions You Can Take

Violence in the Workplace: A Prevention and Management Guide for Businesses

Violence in the Workplace: A Prevention and Management Guide for Businesses

Domestic Violence: Prevention, Assistance, Getting Involved

Family and Friends Guide to Domestic Violence: How to Listen, Talk and Take Action When Someone You Care About is Being AbusedFamily and Friends Guide to Domestic Violence: How to Listen, Talk and Take Action When Someone You Care About is Being Abused

Domestic violence doesn't just happen "out there". It happens in our town, in our neighborhood, on our street. It happens to women we see at the supermarket, the movie theater, and the PTA. It happens to our friends and our co-workers. It happens to our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, and ourselves.

Elaine Weiss's work addresse issues of knowing what to do when someone you care about is in an abusive relationship. Do you ask about it? What if you're wrong? Do you offer to help? Even at the risk of interfering?

Help a Friend or Family Member in Crisis

  • Reach out to them. Ask them what type of help they WANT. What they need might not be what you expect.

  • Believe them and keep whatever you're told confidential. More important than anything else, you must maintain their TRUST. If you take actions on your own, even with the best intentions, you may endanger them, and lose their trust.

  • Don't blame them. The abused person is NOT responsible for being hurt and does not deserve to be abused. Wanting the keep a relationship alive is NOT the same as wanting to be abused.

  • Take the time to talk privately with your friend or co-worker. Each person needs to tell their story in their own time and space.

  • Provide opportunities for them to talk about what's happening. Ask about suspicious bruises or fights that you know about.

  • Validate feelings. Your friend may feel hurt, angry, afraid, ashamed and trapped. Don't minimize or try to "talk them out of" what they are feeling, even if you don't understand it or think it's irrational. What they are feeling and experiencing is reality for THEM.

  • Understand that it is difficult to leave a home or someone you love, and that your loved one may go back several times. Remember too that leaving is the most dangerous time as the overwhelming majority of domestic violence murders occur when a victim is trying to leave and within the first 6 months after they've actually done so. Your friend has the most information about the abuser, and THEY are the best judge of when and how to best make a break in the safest way. Remember that your friend's solutions may not be the same as yours.

  • Help them plan how to stay safe when violence happens, and for longer term possible courses of action they might take.

  • Avoid badmouthing the abuser or pressuring the victim. This can backfire! Victims may pull away and alienate themselves from those who are trying to help. Instead, help the victim to build confidence in themselves and what actions THEY may be able to take for themselves.

Educate yourself about available resources:

Check this site under RESOURCES BY STATE. Some programs will have websites, others will have phone numbers. Find your local domestic violence programs and visit their websites or contact them to learn what programs and services they can offer. You may be surprised by how comprehensive their services can be. Services are available, even if you friend isn't staying in the domestic violence shelter. The more you know, the better you will be able to provide answers or referrals to victims you might come into contact with.

Check the websites of your local law enforcement agencies. They too often have on-staff advocates who can help to understand the processes in your area, the statues and laws in your state and how they can assist victims.

Discover ways to improve or support efforts on behalf of victims

Ask what role YOU can play in making changes locally. You might serve on a Citizen Review Board with your local law enforcement agency, volunteer with your local domestic violence program, or even serve on various committees or on the Board of Directors. Domestic violence programs and shelters have LOTS of ways that you can help - volunteer your skills. Most are in need of computer skills, planning, carpentry, cooking, painting, auto repair, desk top publishing, printing and a wide variety of skills such as yours.

Contrary to popular belief, domestic violence programs, shelters, and websites like this one don't operate as government-funded agencies; instead we are non-profit organizations dependent on financial support from donors within the communities that we serve. Without community support, in the form of individual donations and involvement, those who give grants give their monies elsewhere (since the community apparantly doesn't WANT those services), then, programs get cut, and community outreach suffers. BEFORE a loved one suddenly finds themselves in need, YOU can help ensure that services will be there when needed. It's easy - and it's URGENT - just use your checkbook, or roll up your sleeves and get involved.

In addition to plain old financial support (we know it isn't warm and fuzzy to write a check - but honestly, it helps the MOST), please consider helping your local program by meeting these common needs:

  • Baby supplies such as diapers, baby wipes, lotion, strollers, car seats, and cribs

  • Office Supplies like copy paper, pens, legal pads, sticky notes, and filing cabinets

  • Personal items for victims in shelters like hair care products, disposeable razors, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, towels and washcloths, and feminine hygene products

  • Food items like coffee, sugar, canned juices, and canned foods

  • Paper Products like garbage bags, paper plates, aluminum foil, Ziplock bags, paper towels, and toilet paper

  • Cleaning products like Lysol, bleach, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, sponges and mops

  • Medical supplies like ice packs, over the counter pain products and cold medicines, first aid supplies, and OraJel for infants

  • Bedding supplies like sheets, blankets, pillows, pillowcases, and electric blankets

Use your political voice

Don't forget that YOU get to vote for your mayor, local judges, district attorney, city council, county commissioners, governor, state representatives and senators, and congressional representatives and senators. Encourage your city, county, state and federal officials to fund programs and services for domestic violence victims. YOUR voice makes a difference.


  • Invite a local victim advocacy agency to speak at your place of work, community group, home owners association, school, or other organization that you are active in.

  • Make clear to children around you that sexual coercion is not acceptable, nor is violence towards women a way for boys to "show they are men". Children model behaviors that they see and experience; so be aware of inadvertent messages.

  • Remember that domestic violence is a crime, usually composed of assault and battery. If you witness or suspect abuse, call 911 and stay on the scene. You may be a vital witness.

Religious Leaders

Speak out against domestic violence in your house of worship. Carefully examine the messages you send to those experiencing abuse, about relationships, and responsibilities in marital partnerships. Bring in speakers from your local domestic violence program for services. Try a donation drive for funds or needed items for your local programs. Victims often feel angry at and abandoned by God - consider a special support group in conjunction with your local domestic violence program.

Business Leaders

Examine your workplace attitudes about sexual harassment and domestic violence. Digest the fact that homicide is the leading cause of death to women in the workplace. Then, understand how domestic violence impacts YOUR business:

  • By ignoring the direct and indirect effects of domestic violence on employees, business owners lose between $3 and $5 billion annually for medical costs alone. In addition, employers forfeit another $100 million in lost wages and lost work associated with domestic violence in the workplace. Domestic violence does impact your bottom line!

  • Abused workers usually will not approach their employer for help. Research on battered women demonstrates the primary reason the victim does not disclose abuse at home is fear of job loss or retribution. Remember, their job may represent their only independence from the abuser.

  • Current jury awards to victims, co-workers and their estates have ranged from $25,000 to several million dollars, paid by employers who failed to properly and adequately address domestic violence in the workplace.

  • Contact your local domestic violence program or the American Institute on Domestic Violence for training for employees, supervisors, human resource officers and security staff.

Coaches, Boy Scout Leaders and Educators

Take disciplinary action when you receive information that a student has been abusive toward others. Make violence against girls and women as unacceptable as using illegal drugs. Talk frankly about what it means to "be a man", and how this includes treatment of girls and women. Teach that masculinity is not equated with put downs or abusive behavior. Implement family violence prevention curriculum into your program.

The plain truth is that most youth, both girls and boys, don't "get it" that domestic violence is a crime, making it more likely to be both committed, and tolerated. When designing assignments, consider incluing projects that include research on domestic violence, dating violence, and coercion in relationships. Believe it or not, a majority of young men don't think it's a crime to force things like oral sex (because they don't consider it "rape").

Fraternal and business organizations

Examine how much of your philanthropy is directed at educating about and ending relationship violence. Contribute to programs in your community. Educate your members about these issues.

Criminal Justice professionals

Examine your policies and procedures regarding domestic violence (see the Law Enforcement Program Assistance area for samples). Are perpetrators arrested, charged and convicted? Is any failure being blamed on inaction of the victim? How often does your department provide specific training on domestic violence?

Media and Advertisers

Examine message you send about domestic violence - even unintentional messages. Do you convey myths about the causes of these crimes? Do you blame the violence on things like stress, drug use, or alcoholism instead of on the abuser? Examine the images about victims, perpetrators, and battering relationships that you create or transmit. Decide NOT to objectify women. (Have you seen the Subway commercial that shows a woman destroying her husbands baseball memorabelia because she thought he cheated on his diet? It's disturbing that this is used as an excuse for her behavior - and even MORE disturbing that the ad conveys the message that this behavior would have been acceptable IF he really had cheated!)

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Last Updated: March 6, 2011