How You Can Help
A Friend Who is Hurting from Abuse
When you decide to talk to a friend about their unhealthy relationship, it is important to remember that we can never force someone to end a relationship. We CAN be available, supportive, and honest. Isolation is a key part of abuse; as such, your friend might feel like they don't have a support system. Demonstrate to your friend that you care about them, that you are paying attention, and that you want to help them stay safe and healthy. Understand that they might not want to end the relationship and do your best to empathize with their feelings.
If you are concerned that a friend is in danger, it is a good idea to talk to a trusted adult like a teacher, coach, parent, or guidance counselor. you can also call the JBWS helpline if you are worried about a friend. You can speak to someone on the phone without giving your name or your friend's name.
When you are ready to talk to your friend, show C-O-N-C-E-R-N.
Saying "I'm concerned about you" is a good way to open the conversation. Don't start by criticizing the relationship—that might make your friend feel like they have to defend themselves or their partner.
Be specific about what you are seeing and how it's making you feel. Share specific observations like, "I've noticed that you seem a little nervous around him and it's making me feel worried," or It seems like she texts you all the time. Are you okay with that?"
No one deserves to be controlled or abused
Abusive and controlling behavior is hurtful and has consequences. Make sure your friend knows that no one deserves to be abused. There is no excuse for hurting another person emotionally, sexually or physically.
Let your friend know that you respect their need for privacy and that you won't gossip about thier relationship. Explain that you are concerned about their safety and their partner's safety. If you feel they are in danger, explain to them that you may need to reach out to a parent, counselor, or other trusted adult for help.
Don't judge your friend. Empathize with the complexity of their feelings. Recognize the good parts of the relationship as well as the bad stuff.
"R" you safe?
Safety has to be a key concern anytime you think there is abuse, especially during a breakup. Help your friend see that the abuse could escalate by sharing your knowledge of dating abuse warning signs. Emphasize the availability of confidential resources for help.
by sharing your knowledge or datinIf you've witnessed physical abuse in the relationship or your friend reveals physical abuse, be prepared to express your concerns about safety issues. Explain that what may start as emotional abuse can turn into intimidation, threats and even physical or sexual abuse. Helpline workers can assist you and/or your friend with a specific safety planning.
Name the problem
Naming your friend a "victim of dating abuse" before she/he is ready to believe it may only make the person defensive. When the time is right, however, naming the problem as "a pattern of abuse" may help your friend to see why the abuse continues no matter what. Also, naming the problem can help reduce feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. Additionally, it can make it easier to find the best help for the problem.
For more advice on how to help your friend, please call our 24-hour helpline.
How You Can Help
a Friend Who Is Using Abuse & Control
Someone who is being abusive to a dating partner will likely continue to be abusive unless they get help. Your friend can learn to have a healthy, non-abusive relationship. It's not easy to confront a friend about abuse, but it's important because everyone deserves to have a safe and healthy relationship.
Be clear and specific about what you saw and how it made you feel.
Openly and honestly describe what happened and your reaction. "I didn't like it when you called her fat and ugly in front of us. She must have felt really embarrassed."
Give a "reality check."
Don't reject your friend, just the behavior. Let your friend know that abusive and controlling behavior has consequences. "You know, what you did could get you in trouble or arrested."
Let your friend know that there are places that can help. Share written information about places that can help your friend change the behavior.
Refer for help.
Let your friend know that there are adults a counselor, mentor, teacher, parent, or coach who can help someone to stop abusive behavior, including Choices, a program of JCNV.
Tips for those using abuse are based on a Liz Claiborne publication: What You Need to Know about Dating Violence A Teen Handbook.