Information for Friends and Family

Where Can You Turn if Someone You Love is Being Abused?
The Answer is Here.

Determining what to say or do is very difficult when you suspect or know that someone is being abused physically, verbally or emotionally. It's normal to struggle with some of these common questions: Do I ask about it? Do I offer to help? Will he/she get mad and think I am interfering or overreacting?

But perhaps the biggest question family and friends want answered is, "Why does he/she stay in the relationship?"
The truth is, there are many barriers to leaving an abusive relationship the biggest being the potential harm the victim faces if he/she chooses to flee. Other common reasons are as follows*.

Fear. Perpetrators often make threats of increased violence and even homicide if the victim threatens or attempts to leave. Without help from family, friends and community resources, victims who leave their partners may be placing themselves in danger.
Children. Victims often wish for their children to grow up with both parents.

Control. Victims often believe that they can control the violence by doing what the abuser wants. This is almost never true.

Shame or embarrassment about their situation.

Isolation. Many abusers purposely destroy relationships the victim has with family and friends to leave him/her feeling alone and with no control over the situation.

Financial concerns. Victims of domestic violence may feel they have lost all control over money and hopeless about improving their situation. And although it is difficult at first to be on one's own financially, a future free of violence is a future that holds greater opportunity.

Feelings of deserving abuse. Victims often have the false belief that the abuse is justified or deserved.

History of childhood abuse. Victims with a history of being abused as a child or witnessing domestic abuse in their family of origin often believe that violence is a normal part of a relationship.

*Adapted from materials provided on the following websites:;;

You Can Assist a Victim in the Process of Leaving an Abusive Relationship.

You can help victims of domestic violence with compassionate support, validation of their feelings, offering options, planning for safety and assisting them in making decisions about what is right for them and their family.

Please give them our 24-hour hotline: 216-391-HELP (4357). We stand ready with a trained staff and volunteers offering support, crisis intervention, safety options, information and referrals.

Five things you can say to a victim reluctant to leave*:

  • I am afraid for your safety and the safety of your children.
  • Without a change, the abuse tends to get worse.
  • I am here for you when you are ready to leave.
  • You deserve better than this.
  • There are people who can help you.

Five things you can say to show your support*:

  • I believe you.
  • The abuse is not your fault.
  • How can I assist you in feeling safe?
  • Help me understand how you feel.
  • Your reactions are normal for such a horrible experience.

Things NOT to say to a victim of domestic violence*:

  • I know that you are a battered woman/man.
  • Did you try to stop the abuse?
  • What did you do to provoke the abuse?
  • Why don't you just leave?
  • If someone ever hit me, I know I'd leave immediately.
  • That happened a while ago, can't you just forget about it?

*Taken from Sarah Buel's Prosecuting Batterers Without A Witness Workshop, Tulsa, OK, February, 1994.