Are you concerned about someone you know?
Given the prevalence of sexual and domestic violence, it’s likely that many of us know someone – a friend, co-worker, relative, or neighbor – who is directly affected by these issues.
Why should I take action…
Whether it’s someone you barely know or are very close to, you may have similar questions:
- What should I do or say about my concerns for their safety and well-being
- Should I reach out or respect someone’s privacy?
- Will my actions put either of us at risk?
- Can I do anything to help deescalate situations before they become violent?
Survivors tell us that just helping break the silence surrounding sexual and domestic violence can be like opening a door!
One of the biggest barriers to action is that many of us have been raised to believe that sexual and domestic violence are private matters and none of anyone’s business. The bottom line is that sexual and domestic violence affect us all. As with other public health, public safety, and human rights issue, we all have a role to play in ending violence on an individual, community, societal and global levels.
Your interest in wanting to learn more about the issues and how you can help is an important step in demonstrating your concern and compassion.
What can you do to help make your community safer?
Learning that someone you know has been a victim of sexual or domestic violence can inspire you to join our efforts. Only with sustained effort at the community, national and global levels will we be able to end domestic and sexual violence Join us!
ANYouHow to start the conversation…
We know it can be difficult to start the conversation, so remember you can just take one step at a time. It’s your non-judgmental support that can help someone access the resources they may need.
Listen without judging and don’t rush into providing a solution. The victim is not responsible for someone else’s abusive or violent behavior. There are times when being a good listener is more valuable to that person than any other action might be.
Believe them. Let them know that you support them and ask what you can do to help. Talk with them gently, understanding that everyone needs to take their own time talking about such difficult things.
Support them. Let them know that you care about them. Don’t blame them for what happened. Let them know that it wasn’t their fault. Offer to go with them to a sexual assault or domestic violence program.
Help them to make their own decisions. They are the authority of their own life decisions and your role is to help them figure out their choices and get the resources they need rather than doing it for them.
Encourage them to contact a local program. Research is showing that this is the greatest help a victim can get! This is a place where they can speak with an advocate who is trained and who can listen, connect them with the resources they need and ensure that they have the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves. If they have been sexually assaulted, encourage them to seek medical attention and contact a local sexual violence program.
Be part of their “safety plan.” A safety plan is created by a victim with the help of a trained advocate. The intent is to plan for a victim’s safety needs before another violent episode erupts. While typically associated with domestic violence, victims of sexual assault can also benefit from a safety plan. If you believe they are in immediate danger, call 911.
Contact a local program yourself. You may want to get information for another person, get support for yourself, learn more about how you can support another person and better understand what resources may be available. Co-workers can contact their Employee Assistance Program to learn about workplace-based advocacy services for you, your co-worker and often their family members.
Express concern for their safety. Whether they are leaving a relationship, if they are staying in a relationship and/or if they aren’t sure about their next steps, planning for safety is key. Safety planning is a tool that is useful for all victims and survivors of domestic and/or sexual assault. While we encourage people to talk to a trained domestic violence or rape crisis advocate to talk through your options and safety steps that make sense for you, you can learn more about what’s involved here: https://www.thehotline.org/plan-for-safety/.
Explore the legal remedies available. The legal needs for each victim of sexual or domestic violence are different. There may be workplace or housing issues, concerns about safety at college or job training sites, fears about the abuser’s access to children’s schools or daycare. An advocate can help identify legal issues and help develop solutions through referrals and resources. There are resources including restraining orders and harassment protection orders that have been developed to support victims and survivors and protect their rights to safety. Learn more about legal remedies here: https://www.masslegalhelp.org/. For civil legal matters regardingn sexual violence, contact the Victim Rights Law Center here: http://www.victimrights.org/.
Learn about victims’ legal rights. Many battered immigrant victims who have legal immigration status do not know that their batterer cannot take that status away. You should know that if immigrant victims are U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, or have a valid visa, they cannot be deported unless they have entered the U.S. on fraudulent documents, violated conditions of their visa, or have been convicted of certain crimes.
Maintain confidentiality. Do not share information the person tells you with anyone else without the specific permission of the experiencing violence.
Understand that healing is a process that is different for each person. There is no formula and healing is not a time limited experience. Express compassion, nonjudgmental support and acceptance.
What if you know someone who is demonstrating abusive behaviors…
You can also talk to local programs for help if you know someone who is committing sexual or domestic violence against another person.
It’s critical that you be careful, for your own safety and for the safety of the victim. So before you speak to the abuser or a family member or friend of the abuser or victim, ask the victim what they want. It’s important to keep in mind that, however well-intentioned you are, the abuser may feel like they are losing control and therefore try to harm the victim and/or others.
If you do talk to the offender, let the person know that sexual and domestic violence do not stop without some sort of outside intervention and encourage them to seek appropriate services and education for abusive individuals. You can learn about the intimate partner abuse education programs and other services that are available and share these resources with your family member, colleague or friend.