How to help someone who’s being abused, but they’re not ready for help

So, your friend/sister/co-worker/neighbor tells you that he or she is having “relationship problems.”  It doesn’t take long for you to learn that these  “problems” are actually domestic abuse—psychological, emotional, verbal, sexual and possibly physical violence. Your heart breaks and your anger level rises. Immediately you get into advice giving mode as you counsel your friend about how to leave their partner.
A week later, he or she acts like that conversation never happened, saying “Everything is fine now.”  However, your instincts tell you otherwise. You don’t know whether you should let it drop or keep pushing them to talk about it.  It’s so  very frustrating for you−you want to help your friend, but they don’t appear to want to leave.
Leaving is often the most dangerous time in a relationship with intimate partner violence. It’s unlikely that you, as the helpful friend, know everything about their situation. It’s often complicated by children, family, finances, transportation, housing and most importantly safety.
Most domestic abuse involves psychological abuse tactics, leaving survivors to believe they must depend on their abuser for support, self-worth, money and basic survival needs. Many believe they don’t have the ability to leave. It’s usually not that they don’t want to leave- they just don’t know how to get out safely.
There isn’t any quick fix for an abusive relationship and getting out rarely occurs overnight. It’s important to listen and support your friend unconditionally. Remember, abuse isn’t easy to discuss, so recognize their strength in telling their story.
Believe your friend and be sure to let them know that in no way did they personally cause the abuse- it’s not their faultand they never deserve it.
Reassure them that they are not alone—4 in 10 people experience at least one form of control by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Tell them you will support their decisions as much as possible, even though you may not always agree with them!
Resist the impulse to immediately call the police unless the friend is in immediate danger of being harmed. A general call to police to report abuse when you haven’t witnessed it yourself and isn’t happening at that moment is not likely to get a police response and will often anger the abuser while putting the person being abused in more danger.  
If you, or someone you care about, is experiencing domestic violence, call Crisis Services to speak with an advocate, who knows how to help. Crisis Services in Jackson County is open Monday-Friday for free assistance in helping you or someone you know. Call 256.574.5826 during normal business hours or the 24/7 Crisis Line at 256.716.1000 to speak with a trained professional.
Intimate partner violence is a serious crime, often painful and sometimes deadly. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Help is available.

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