Attorney’s Office

Tips to Help a Friend

How to help a Friend or Relative
Who is in an Abusive Relationship

Dealing with the incidents and effects of domestic abuse is most difficult for the victims. It is also difficult for those friends and relatives who know that a loved one is being abused. The following are ways in which you can assist in addressing the abuse:

  • Tell her it's not her fault. You can never make someone else hurt you.
  • Tell her she doesn't deserve it. No one ever deserves to be hurt.
  • Tell her she's not crazy. A person who's been abused often feels upset, depressed, confused, and scared. Let her know these are normal feelings to have.
  • Don't try to pretend that the abuse isn't happening, or that it isn't that bad. Let your friend know that you take it very seriously; pretending it's no big deal doesn't make it go away.
  • Tell her good things about herself. Let her know you think she's smart, h5, and brave. Her abuser is telling her she is stupid and tearing down her self-esteem.
  • Try to help your friend break out of the isolation her abuser has put her in. Keep in contact with her on the phone or by going out with her.
  • Don't spread gossip--it could put her in danger.
  • Don't try to make her do anything she doesn't want to do (it won't work unless it's her decision).
  • Encourage her to build a wide support system-- go to a support group, talk to friends and family.
  • Don't blame her for the abuse or her decisions; leaving an abusive relationship is hard and usually takes a long time.
  • See if she needs medical attention--she may not realize the extent of her injuries.
  • Give her good information about abuse--you can call your local crisis line and get information about the impact of abuse on children and that drugs and alcohol do not cause domestic violence.
  • Tell her that domestic violence is a crime and she can call 911 for help. If it’s not safe to stay on the phone with the operator run or go to a safe place.
  • Help her develop a safety plan for the time she stays as well as the time when she leaves.
  • Listen. Let her express all her fears and other feelings. Even giving her good advice in a kind and respectful manner can be received as pressure and/or a reminder of everything she is not doing "right."
  • Don't initially challenge or reject her feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment. Give her time. She needs to come to her own conclusions about her self-defeating thinking. If she follows what you say, then she has substituted one kind of dependence for another.
  • Don't blame or attack the abuser. It will confuse her and, perhaps, move her to defend him or her. Up to now she may have found some internal peace by making excuses for a person who says he/she loves her yet can abuse her so badly.
  • Be patient. Her self-empowerment may take longer that you want. Go at the victim's pace, not yours, unless the danger is imminent.
  • Ask her about the children. Encourage her to talk about the effects this is having on them. Validate those concerns. It may help her leave in the future.
  • Don’t give up. Let her know you will always be there for her when she may need help or just needs someone to talk to.

Contact Us

Polk County Attorney's Office
Polk County Justice Center
222 Fifth Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309

Phone: (515) 286-3737
Fax: (515) 286-3428