Friends and Family: How To Help An Assaulted Woman

Publication Date: 
1995
Resource Origin: 
Springtide
  • Know the facts about woman abuse.
  • Assure her that you believe her story.
  • Listen and let her talk about her feelings.
  • Do not judge or give advice.  Talk to her about her options.
  • Physical safety is the first priority.  If you believe she is in danger, tell her.  Help her plan an emergency exit.
  • Respect her right to confidentiality.
  • Let her know you care and want to help.
  • Allow her to feel the way she does and support her decisions.  Let her talk about the caring aspects of the relationship as well.  Don't try to diminish her feelings about her partner.  Don't criticize her for staying with them, but share information on how abuse increases over time without intervention.
  • Give clear messages, including:
    • Violence is never okay or justifiable.
    • Her safety and her children's safety are always the most important issues.
    • Wife assault is a crime.
    • She does not cause the abuse.
    • She is not to blame for her partner's behaviour.
    • She cannot change her partner's behaviour.
    • Apologies and promises will not end the violence.
    • She is not alone.
    • She is not 'crazy'.
    • Abuse is not loss of control, it is a means of control.
  • Discuss how the violence affects the children.
  • Be encouraged that every time she reaches out for help she is gaining the emotional strength needed to make effective decisions.  She may be too fearful and immobilized or confused to take any step immediately.
  • Although police can be asked to accompany a woman going back home to retrieve personal belongings, encourage her to be prepared for the possibility of leaving home in a hurry.  She should have necessary documents or photocopies ready, as well as important items such as:
    • credit cards, cash, bank books
    • passport, birth certificates, citizenship papers
    • house keys
    • medications
    • children's favourite toy, clothing, etc.
  • An abused woman needs our support and encouragement in order to make choices that are right for her.  However, there are some forms of advice that are not useful and even dangerous for her to hear:
  • Don't tell her what to do, when to leave or when not to leave.
  • Don't tell her to go back to the situation and try a little harder.
  • Don't rescue her by trying to find quick solutions.
  • Don't suggest you try to talk to her partner to straighten things out.
  • Don't place yourself in danger by confronting the assaultive individual.
  • Don't tell her she should stay for the sake of the children.
  • Never recommend joint family or marital counselling in situations of emotional or physical abuse.  It is dangerous for the woman and will not lead to a resolution that is in her interest. 
  • Encourage separate counselling for the abuser and woman, if they want counselling.