What can I do if I know a woman is living with violence?
- Listen to her.
- Violence is never okay or justifiable. Reassure her that she is not the cause of the violence.
- Violence is not a loss of control; it is a means of control. Her abuser learned to use violence as a way of expressing frustration or rage long before they met.
- Safety is the first priority. Physical violence usually gets worse as time goes on. Ignoring it is dangerous. Explain this.
- Tell her that she is not alone. Partner violence happens to women from all income and education levels, in all religious and ethnic groups.
- Let her set the agenda and topics.
- Talk about how violence is a crime and it is not a sickness. It is too widespread and occurs too frequently to be caused by mental illness. Let them know:
- they did not cause the violence;
- they are not to blame for the other person’s behaviour;
- they cannot change the other person’s behaviour;
- apologies and promises will not end the violence; and
- they are not alone.
- Reassure her that leaving does not mean she loses her legal rights to financial support and custody of her children.
- Encourage her to look after herself and help her make a safety plan in advance. Help identify a wide range of choices for dealing with the violence.
- Find out about the resources in your community;
- Look in the front pages of your telephone book for emergency numbers of police, crisis or distress lines, shelters;
- Prepare a list of names and numbers of the emergency resources in your community so you can give it to a person if you think they are being abused.
- Respect her decisions. If she is not ready at this point to make major changes in her life, do not take away your friendship and support. Your support and advice may be what will make it possible for her to act at a later date.
An abused person needs your support and encouragement to make choices that are right for them. However, there are some forms of advice that are not useful and even dangerous for them to hear.
- Don't tell them what to do; for example, when to leave or when not to leave.
- Don't tell them to go back to the situation and try a little harder or ignore it.
- Don't rescue them by trying to find quick solutions.
- Don't suggest you try to talk to the other person to straighten things out.
- Don't tell them they should do something for the sake of family or other person.
Victims of partner violence can go to their local police station or provincial court to apply for an Emergency Protection Order.
Adapted from: National Clearinghouse on Family Violence website.