Saturday, May 2, 2009

But what can I do?

When I tell people about the work Break the Cycle does, they will often disclose a story about how domestic and dating violence has affected their lives. Sometimes they share a story about abusive relationships they’ve experienced themselves, but more often than not, they’ll talk about the experiences of someone they care about. The common theme in many of those stories is the feeling of helplessness.

When you care about someone, of course you want to do everything you can to protect them from hurt or harm. But when that harm is coming from an abusive relationship, it can feel especially overwhelming trying to figure out what you can do to help.

One really important thing to remember is that just by being there for your friend, you are already doing a lot. Experiencing abuse can be a very lonely time for someone, so simply by being present and supportive you can help lighten that sense of aloneness.

The hard part about being there for someone is that you can’t assume that you know what is best for their specific situation. You can and should be honest about your concerns for their well-being and safety. But at the end of the day, any decisions about the relationship have to be made by the person in that relationship – they are the expert on their own situation and it is important to respect that.

While you can’t take responsibility for your friends’ decisions, you can help support them as they move forward. That support might be providing them with information about abuse and healthy relationships – this can help them think about whether their relationship is as healthy as they deserve. You can also connect them to resources in their community (like Break the Cycle) who can help them think about their options, legal rights, and safety planning. Sometimes support can just be encouraging your friends to continue doing the things they love and seeing the people they love, outside of their relationship. And of course, if you ever believe that they are in immediate danger – don’t hesitate to call 911.

Remember, it is never easy to leave an abusive relationship. There can be a lot of factors that make it difficult for someone to seek help, or leave their abusive partner. Having a supportive, compassionate and thoughtful friend like you can make a world of difference for someone experiencing abuse.


To find out more about teen dating abuse click here

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