How to Help Someone who is Violent
It is difficult to see someone you care about hurt others. Remember that as a friend or family member your actions can make a difference. Ultimately, the abuser is the only person who can decide to change, but there are things that you can do to encourage this change.
What Do I Need to Know?
When friends and family remain silent or excuse violence, the abusive person is encouraged to continue the violence. It may be difficult to admit that your friend or family member is violent, but you may have the greatest ability to influence the abuser to change.
It is not easy for abusers to admit that their violence is a choice or to accept responsibility for their behaviour. An abuser may benefit from having control over his partner and may turn to you to help justify the violence. Do not support the violence in any way. Remember, this does not mean you are turning against your friend or family member; you are simply helping him to have the healthy relationship that he deserve.
What Can I Do?
- Never tell an abuser anything his partner has told you;
- Learn about domestic violence yourself so you can help your friend or family member recognize his violent behaviors;
- Identify the violence when you see it. Remember to criticize the behaviour, not the person, or you will only succeed in making him defensive;
- Educate the abuser about the different types of violence. Help him to realize the consequences of his behaviour. Offer your support if he chooses to seek help;
- Your friend or family member may try to blame the victim for the violence. Don’t support these feelings or help to justify the violence. Help him recognize that anger is an acceptable emotion but hurting someone is not;
- Help the abuser focus on the victim’s feelings and the serious harm the victim is experiencing because of the violence;
- Be aware of minimizing, denying and shifting blame and don’t support efforts to minimize the severity of the violent behaviour;
- Don’t ignore violence that you hear about or see. Your silence helps the abusive person to deny that his behaviour is wrong;
- Stay in touch with your friend or family member about the violence. Be there to support the abuser to change in the long term;
- Remind your friend or family member that change will create better, healthy relationships with all the people in his life;
- Take time to acknowledge the abuser’s strengths. Put-downs only reinforce the insecurity that is often at the root of his behaviour;
- Be clear that violence is always a choice. Acknowledge that it takes courage to talk about violence and to seek help to change. Offer your support if he chooses to seek help;
- Convince the abuser that getting professional help is important and have a list of resources ready;
- Help the abuser to accept responsibility for the violence. Violence does not happen because one is “provoked” or “drunk“. Violence is used to gain power over another;
- Don’t give up. Behavioural changes take a long time.
Set an example by having healthy relationships in your own life.