A woman in a file photo. About a quarter of U.S. women suffer domestic violence, U.S. health officials reported on Thursday, with ongoing health problems that one activist likened to the effects of living in a war zone -
REUTERS/File - February 7, 2008
CAIRO – 28 November 2017: Every day we hear a story of a woman who has been subjected to some form of violence. Many of these women, most of the time along with their children, are forced to leave the house and sleep in their parents’ houses because it is not safe for them to be at home.
The situation becomes even more difficult and upsetting when the person experiencing violence is a family member, friend or work colleague. And it is also difficult to know what to do to support this friend or family member you care about.
Your first reaction might be that you want to protect her, but you fear that, by intervening, you can put both yourself and her in danger. But, you cannot ignore it.
There are some effective things that you can do to help her and to make her and her children feel safer. You do not have to be an expert; you only need to listen. You might be saving a life.
Be supportive.Listen to her and help her to open up. Offer nonjudgmental support. Tell her that it is not her fault in any way and that she should not blame herself in any way. Believe what she tells you. And remind her that she deserves to be respected, no matter what happens. Reassure her that you have never and would never blame her. If she decided to continue in the relationship, do not judge her. Try to understand the obstacles she faces, like nowhere to go, no money and no one to turn to for support.
The most important thing that you can offer to a woman who is in an abusive relationship is to respect her, remind her of her strengths, take her seriously and remind her that she is coping well in a stressful situation. Try connecting her to where she can get help, if you know a place.
Learn more about violence.Educate yourself and raise your awareness of signs of abuse, as there are many types of violence, from physical abuse to financial abuse, and it is not always easy to tell if it is happening. Some of the red flags of domestic violence include the victim becoming isolated from friends, family or activities. They seem sad or withdrawn, missing work, trying to cover up bruises, being nervous when their husband is around, lack of access to their money, etc.
Be aware of the risks.Many abusers follow and monitor their victims. They stalk them where ever they go and follow who they meet. They might even have access to the victim’s social media accounts, so be careful what you communicate with the victim so that you do not harm her or put her in more danger. Always remember that an abused woman is at most risk at the point of separation and immediately after leaving an abusive partner.
Ensure your own safety.Do not go into confrontation with an abuser or put yourself in any form of danger.
Find resources. Contact an organization offering specialized services to victims of abuse and contact them before speaking to the victim. This way you can provide her with specific information – if and when she is ready to seek help. Many organizations have a hotline that you can call anonymously, and they will answer all your questions and refer you to the services you are looking for. Moreover, some organizations offer specialized services for victims of abuse, including counseling, safety planning and helping women to find housing, employment training and legal support.
Choose the right time and place.Discuss your concerns with the victim in an appropriate place and time, be thoughtful and considerate. Choose a place where you will have privacy and will not be interrupted. Do not start a conversation with her unless you are prepared and you have the time, so that you will not seem distracted or in a hurry.
Voice your concerns.Be compassionate and sensitive. Show your support and confirm that you will keep your talk confidential and that you will never repeat anything that she says. Confirm that you are concerned and worried about her and ask her if there is anything that you can do. Never give details about what you have heard or witnessed or why you are concerned, as she might feel that she has to give excuses or maybe even deny what happened. Just repeat that you want to support her. If she does not want to talk about it, just say that you are available and ready to listen if she wants to talk another time.
Put her in charge.Do not try to talk over her or tell her what to do. Explore options with her and tell her that you will not force her to do anything that she does not want to do. Ask her direct and simple questions, and offer help by finding someone that she can talk to or somewhere safer she can go. If she is not sure about the answer, just encourage her to talk; and again, listen without judgment.
Domestic violence is not a private matter, it is everyone’s problem. It affects the future of children and increases the chances of such behavior being repeated, creating an ongoing problem.