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 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 them it's not their fault. You can never make someone else hurt you.
  • Tell them that they don’t deserve the abuse. No one ever deserves to be hurt.
  • People who have been abused often feel upset, depressed, confused, and scared. Let them 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.
  • Build your friend up – be positive. Their abuser is likely putting them down.
  • Try to help your friend break out of the isolation his/her abuser. Keep in contact with them by phone or in person.
  • Don't spread gossip--it could put them in danger.
  • Don't try to make them do anything they do not want to do.
  • Encourage them to build a wide support system-- go to a support group, talk to friends and family.
  • Don't blame them for the abuse or their decisions; leaving an abusive relationship is hard and usually takes a long time.
  • See if they needs medical attention--they may not realize the extent of their injuries.
  • Educate them--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 them that domestic violence is a crime and they 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 them develop a safety plan for the time they stay as well as the time when they leave.
  • Listen. Let them express all their fears and other feelings. Even giving good advice in a kind and respectful manner can be received as pressure.
  • Don't initially challenge or reject feelings of shame, guilt, or embarrassment. Give them time. They need to come to their own conclusions about their self-defeating thinking. If they follow what you say, then they has substituted one kind of dependence for another.
  • Don't blame or attack the abuser. It may cause confusion. Up to now they may have found some internal peace by making excuses for a person who says he/she loves them yet can abuse them so badly.
  • Be patient. Their self-empowerment may take longer that you want. Go at the victim's pace, not yours, unless the danger is imminent.
  • Ask about their children. Encourage them to talk about the effects this is having on them. Validate those concerns. It may help them leave in the future.
  • Don’t give up. Let them know you will always be there for them when they may need help or just need 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
Email: ctyatty@polkcountyiowa.gov