How to Talk with Someone Who Is Being Abused

If you know someone who is being abused by their intimate partner, you can do many things to make a real difference. Most battered women who are offered help deeply appreciate it, even if they don't say so.
Many people hesitate to speak with a woman who they think is being or will be abused because they don't know what to do or say. Relax and be yourself. This will communicate your concern. 
  • Establish a rapport with her if you don't already have one so that she feels comfortable talking with you. Be careful not to put her on the spot.
  • Listen without judging. Often a battered woman believes her abuser's negative messages about herself. She may feel responsible, ashamed, inadequate and afraid that you will judge her.
  • Let her know you care about her. Tell her she is not responsible for the abuse. Explain that physical violence in a relationship is never acceptable. There's no excuse for it – not alcohol or drugs, financial pressure, depression, jealously or any behavior of hers.
  • Be sure she knows she is not alone. Millions of women of every race, age and religion face abuse. Many women find it extremely difficult to deal with the violence. 
  • Emphasize that, when she wants help, it is available. 
  • Let her know that domestic violence tends to get worse and become more frequent with time. It does not go away on its own. 
  • Explain that domestic violence is a crime and that she can seek protection from the police, the courts or a domestic violence program. Give her phone numbers she can call for help and referrals. 
  • Give her written material about what she can do to protect herself. Local shelters have this kind of information. 
To get advice on how to talk with someone who may be in a violent relationship, please call the Portland Women's Crisis Line, 503-235-5333 or toll-free 888-235-5333. Or, if you are a Providence Health & Services employee, you may call the Providence EAP office, 503-215-3561. The experts at these places can help you decide what is best to do in your situation.  

Reprinted and revised with permission from the Family Violence Prevention Fund.