7 ways to support a domestic violence survivor

7 ways to support a domestic violence survivor

Acts of domestic violence occur every day, mostly behind closed doors. Nicole Glaser, manager of Aurora Sinai Medical Center’s healing and advocacy services, shares how you can support someone you know.

1. Learn the warning signs

Physical: Look for black eyes, swollen lips, red or purple marks on the neck, sprained wrists or bruised arms.

Emotional: Survivors may have low self-esteem, be overly apologetic, fearful, experience changes in sleeping/eating patterns, become anxious, have substance abuse issues or show signs of depression.

Behavioral: Look for changes in behaviors of becoming withdrawn, canceling plans, being late, isolation and increased privacy about personal life.

This is not a comprehensive list and someone struggling does not have to be experiencing all these symptoms to require help. If you suspect someone is struggling and requires immediate assistance, call our hotline at 414-219-5555.

2. Make time for them

Survivors may be more reluctant to initiate plans and would appreciate a friend taking the first step to connect. Creating time in your day for someone you suspect is suffering will generate trust and create a safe space for sharing.

3. Start a conversation

Once trust is established, you can initiate the conversation with the person. It’s important to not push the subject and let it come naturally. You can assure the person you will be discreet and that you are concerned for their well-being. Try starting the conversation off with “I’m worried about you because…”

4. Listen without judgement

Be an active listener by asking clarifying questions and not providing advice. The person will tell you what they need if you give them the space to talk.

5. Validate survivors

Be sure to validate survivors in whatever they are feeling. You can say “I believe you” and “this is not your fault.” All situations of domestic violence are complex and elicit a variety of emotions. Support them through feelings of anger, hope, fear, despair or even love.

6. Offer support

Once the conversation has ended, you can find ways to support the survivor. This can include locating/providing resources or creating a safety plan. It’s important to respect the choices of the survivor and to not overstep. Understand that only the survivor can make their choice and that your only job is to support them through that decision.

7. Take care of yourself

It can be draining to actively listen to someone experiencing hardships so remember to listen to yourself too. Take time to exercise, get fresh air or anything to recharge.

Glaser likes to remind everyone that domestic violence is complicated and someone might not be ready to leave.

“Leaving can often be most dangerous,” says Glaser. “You can help support them by educating yourself on learning the signs of domestic violence and creating a safety plan.”

Advocate Aurora Health offers behavioral health treatment and programs. Learn more about your options: Illinois | Wisconsin.

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Margaret Weiner
Margaret Weiner

Junior at Marquette University studying public relations, corporate communications and business administration with a concentration in communication leadership