How to Help a Friend: A Resource for Youth

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How to help a friend who is being abused:

I went to this party one night and everyone was having a great time. After awhile my girlfriend and her steady started arguing. He was drinking a lot and so was she. Anyhow, they started to yell at each other and then he began hitting her. I screamed at him to stop and Cindy started freaking out. Finally, a couple of guys made him stop. Cindy ended up with a black eye and a swollen lip. When we left the party they were acting like nothing happened. It was weird.

  • Physical safety is the first priority. Hitting and beating usually get worse as time goes by. Ignoring a beating is dangerous. Explain this to your friend.

  • Listen calmly and take the concern seriously.

  • Reduce her vulnerability. Plan for her not to be alone with him.

  • Tell her she's not alone in her situation. Abuse happens to many young women, in all social classes, in all religious, racial and cultural groups.

  • Reassure your friend that nobody deserves to be abused.

  • Explain to her that abuse in relationships is not a sickness, it is a crime.

  • Suggest talking to a trusted adult such as a teacher, guidance counsellor or a school psychologist, and/or call a community agency for advice.

  • Explore legal options or a school's ability to control the abuser's behaviour.

  • Get her involved with friends and activities.

  • If she is not ready at this point to make major changes in her life, do not take away your friendship. Your support and advice may be what will make it possible for her to act at a later date.

  • Respect her right to privacy by letting her be in control of who she wants to tell. You should not repeat her story unless she specifically asks you to repeat it.

  • Put aside your feelings and deal with them elsewhere. It is very difficult to listen to the hurt, anger and pain someone close to you is having without you feeling that way, too.It is important that you talk about these feelings with someone else, as she will have enough difficulty healing from her own trauma without trying to empathize and help you as well.

How to help a friend who is abusive:

  • Support them for recognizing their problem.

  • Suggest talking to a trusted adult such as a teacher, guidance counsellor or school psychologist, and/or call a community agency for advice.

  • If you witness a friend acting in an abusive manner

  • Tell your friend that nobody deserves to be abused.

  • Help your friend in looking at the risks of more abuse.

How teens can help prevent violence:

  • Become more aware of verbal and physical abuse in your own relationships.

  • Help students "break the silence".

  • Promote other ways to deal with anger and resolve conflict, for instance through talking through feelings and creative problem solving.

  • Beware of jokes, movies, television programs, advertising, and rock videos that are demeaning to women and may promote violence against women.


Education Wife Assault and Women's Habitat of Etobicoke. Preventing Violence in Dating Relationships: A Teaching Guide (Toronto, ON: Education Wife Assault, 1994)

London Family Court Clinic.  ASAP: A School-Based Anti-Violence Program. (London, ON: London Family Court Clinic, 1995)

Mississauga Hospital Sexual Assault Team. Lindsay's Story: Education for Date Rape Prevention. (Mississauga, ON: The Mississauga Hospital, 1994)