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How to Help a Friend Experiencing Domestic Violence

Domestic and sexual violence are serious problems in our community just as they are in every community in New Hampshire. We are very fortunate to be one of the two counties in New Hampshire with the lowest rate of domestic violence fatalities. However, one death is too many. Every day in our community, there are women, men and children living in fear of the people who promise to love them.

Until you have walked in the shoes of a person in an abusive relationship you may never understand how much courage it takes for a victim to leave an abusive relationship. An abusive relationship follows a pattern of controlling behaviors and the specifics dynamics may not be understood by others in the family or community. As a result victims may choose to stay in the abusive relationship because they feel that there is no safe way out. As a friend or family member this may be frustrating and scary however there are ways you can increase safety for the victim and her or his children.

Start a conversation. Showing genuine concern is the best place to start. Time and place are important; Privacy matters. You can begin with a simple “I am worried about you.”

Believe what you hear. Listen without interruption or asking a lot of questions. Accept the details as they are revealed. Be aware that your friend/family member may be struggling with deep embarrassment, guilt or fear.

Offer your support and encouragement. Provide your friend/family a safe place to talk and demonstrate your respect for privacy and confidentiality. It is important to remain open and available. Offering advice usually isn’t effective.

Educate yourself about domestic violence. Leaving an abusive relationship is a process. Being aware that your friend/family member may be responding to the abuser’s sense of remorse or promises to change.

Reach out for support. Learn more about the support Starting Point can offer your friend.

As a community, we all have a responsibility to see that victims of domestic violence are supported so that more victims will come forward and seek the justice and assistance they deserve. For this to be a reality it will take more than just the efforts of advocates and law enforcement. If you are interested in finding out what you can do to support victims contact us at 447-2494 or visit our website at www.startingpointnh.org .

Victims of abuse, you do not have to be powerless; Starting Point is standing by with advocates ready to help you form a safety plan 24 hours a day at 800-336-3795.

In the words of Albert Camus, “Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. “Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and by my friend.”