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How Can Friends
and Parents Help?

Relationship Violence: For Parents and Friends

Watching your friend or family member suffer in a violent relationship can be excruciating. Feeling helpless, burned-out, and angry – sometimes at the victim too – is natural. Understanding the cycle of violence in abusive relationships can help. Your friend or family member’s sense of reality might be distorted because they are trapped in this cycle.

Understand the Nature of Abusive Relationships

  • Abusive relationships don’t “just work themselves out.”
  • Your support and encouragement of the victim is critical, no matter how you long you’ve tried to help or your feelings about their relationship.
  • Being an active, non-judgmental listener can help lessen their isolation or loss of control.
  • Be patient. Change can be slow.

Recognize the Warning Signs of Relationship Violence in Your Friend or Family Member

  • Their partner has too much control over their schedule, activities, finances, their personal appearance, and/or contact with you and other friends.
  • They have unexplained bruises or “accidents” causing them to miss school or work. And they give inconsistent explanations for their bruises or “accidents.”
  • Their partner makes fun of them around others or humiliates them in public.
  • They appear frightened, exhausted, or on edge.
  • Their children upset easily or experience sudden problems in school.
How to Help Your Friend or Family Member +

Listen actively and without judgment. Let the victim control what and how much information they want to share with you. Digging for every detail can overwhelm or alienate them. Tell them abuse is never acceptable and that you are there to listen to and support them. It might be difficult, but try to just listen, even if they are choosing to stay in the relationship.

Recognize Strengths
Remind them of their strengths, skills and abilities to help them see out of the relationship. Pointing out how strong they are as a survivor of abuse can be helpful, even when they are still in the relationship.

Brainstorm support resources with them. Refer them to support services at UConn. Assure them they can call you if and when they are ready to get help.

Let them know that relationship violence is a crime and has serious consequences for victims, including death.
Use the Right Language
Use language that communicates your support instead of your anger or conflicting emotion to avoid alienating them. Say, “I’m worried about you” instead of “Why don’t you just leave” or “I can’t believe you put up with that.”

Express Concern
Take the situation seriously. Relationship abuse is rarely happens just once and usually gets worse over time.

Stay in Touch
Abusers often try to isolate their partners. Stay in touch and let your friend or family member know you’re available when they need you.

When the Victim Thinks They Can’t Leave +

Leaving a violent relationship can be extremely hard for victims, especially if they are financially dependent, have children with their abuser, or fear for their safety if they leave. From the outside looking in, you might be frustrated, confused, worried or just can’t understand why they keep going back to their abuser.

Leaving an abuser is often the most dangerous time for a victim. It can take much time, careful planning and multiple attempts. Keep supporting them throughout the entire process of leaving.

Five Things to Say to a Loved One Stuck in a Violent Relationship

  1. I am here for you and will support you, no matter what.
  2. I am afraid for your safety.
  3. I am afraid for the safety of your roommates/friends/children.
  4. It will only get worse. The abuser has no reason to change if you stay.
  5. You don’t deserve to be abused.
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