One in four young people report emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year. This means that you personally know — and come in contact with — many people in your daily life who are experiencing abuse. You can make a positive difference to someone experiencing abuse, whether they’re a family member, friend or even a stranger.
Not sure if someone is in trouble? You might not see dramatic warning signs like black eyes and broken bones, so how can you tell for sure? For one thing, listen to your instincts. You probably wouldn’t be worried without good reason.
Here are some signs to look for that might mean someone you know is in trouble and needs help.
- You notice their partner calls them names or puts them down in front of other people.
- If they talk to other people, their partner gets extremely jealous.
- They apologize for their partner’s behavior and make excuses for it.
- They frequently cancel plans at the last minute for reasons that sound untrue.
- Their partner is always checking up, calling or texting and demanding to know where they’ve been and with who.
- You’ve seen fights escalate to breaking or hitting things.
- They’re constantly worried about upsetting their partner or making them angry.
- They give up things they used to enjoy such as spending time with friends or other activities.
- Their weight, appearance or grades have changed dramatically. These could be signs of depression, which could indicate abuse.
- They have injuries they can’t explain or the explanations they give don’t make sense.
Help a Friend or Family Member
Watching a friend or family member go through an abusive relationship can be very scary and you may feel like you’re not sure how to help them. The decision to leave can only be made by the person experiencing the abuse, but there a lot of things you can do to help your friend stay safe.
What Do I Need to Know?
If your friend or family member is undergoing the serious and painful effects of dating abuse, they may have a very different point of view than you. They may have heard the abuse was their fault and feel responsible. If they do choose to leave, they may feel sad and lonely when it’s over, even though the relationship was abusive. They may get back together with their ex many times, even though you want them to stay apart. Remember that it may be difficult for your friend to even bring up a conversation about the abuse they’re experiencing.
What Can I Do?
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Tell them you’re concerned for their safety and want to help.
- Be supportive and listen patiently. Acknowledge their feelings and be respectful of their decisions.
- Help them recognize that the abuse is not “normal” and is NOT their fault. Everyone deserves a healthy, non-violent relationship.
- Focus on your friend or family member, not the abusive partner. Even if your loved one stays with their partner, it’s important they still feel comfortable talking to you about it.
- Connect them to resources in their community that can give them information and guidance. Remember, AWARE (awareak.org) can help.
- Help them develop a safety plan.
- If they break up with the abusive partner, continue to be supportive after the relationship is over.
- Even when you feel like there’s nothing you can do, don’t forget that by being supportive and caring — you’re already doing a lot.
- Don’t contact their abuser or publicly post negative things about them online. It’ll only worsen the situation for your friend.
Help a Stranger
A community of support is necessary to help a survivor reach safety and peace. Even if you don’t know the person experiencing dating abuse, you have the ability to become involved and try to stop dating abuse when you see it. Intervening can have a positive impact on someone in an abusive relationship and may be the difference between safety and danger. Do your part and speak up against abuse.
You can look for warning signs of abuse to help you identify if the situation is, in fact, abusive. If it feels wrong to you, it probably is. Also, know that even if you don’t feel safe enough to actually intervene, even standing around and letting the couple know that you are watching and are a witness to what is happening can help. Be careful. If you think something might be going on, say something. But if you think it may be unsafe for you to do something, stay back.
Don’t Neglect Your Personal Safety
Your safety is always the highest priority and you won’t be able to give the best support if you’re injured. If for any reason you feel unsafe, do not approach the couple. Alert an authority figure or call the police immediately. If you do intervene and the abuse continues, step away and get help.
~Info taken from loveisrespect.org
***If you are experiencing domestic or sexual violence, please contact AWARE for free and confidential services (907)586-1090.