How to help a friend or family member
We often get phone calls from people whose friends and/or family members are being abused by their partners. Here are some answers to common questions that we get.
Why won’t they leave?
There are many reasons that a person may not be ready or able to leave a relationship. The survivor may still very much love their partner and be hoping that the abuse will stop. The survivor may have been told repeatedly that they are worthless or that no one will ever love them other than their abuser. The survivor may not have money, a job, a home, etc. They may fear losing their children, financial security, pets, etc. They may fear facing discrimination as an LGBQ/T individual having to navigate mainstream systems. They may be worried about their abuser and what will happen to them when they leave. They may fear increased violence. Statistics have shown that when a survivor tries to leave there is often an escalation in violence by the abuser. Because the abusive partner is so concerned with maintaining control over the survivor they may feel threatened by the loss of control and may do things that they have never done before.
Can I confront the abuser?
No matter how angry you are do not confront the abusive partner or try to reason with them. This may be dangerous for you, and the survivor will take the brunt of their abuser’s anger and blame. While you may have the best of intentions, confronting the abusive partner could make things much worse for the survivor and may increase their isolation.
What can I do?
More than likely you are very worried about your friend and/or family member and want to help them. Given the particular dynamics of relationships where abuse is present, the things that we may immediately want to do (confront the abusive partner, make the survivor leave a relationship, etc.) are not always the most helpful. However, there are many things you can do that can make all the difference to a survivor.
- Let them know you care. Abusive people maintain control over their partners by isolating them and convincing them that no one cares about them. Fear and shame may prevent a survivor from asking for help or confiding in another person.
- Be safe, available, and non-judgmental. Let the survivor know that you are there for them, whether or not they want to or are ready to leave the relationship. Let them know that if they want to talk they can call you and that if they need a break they can stay with you. While it can be difficult to only offer your support, doing so may mean everything to the survivor and may be the reason they feel safe to come to you if they are ready to take the steps they need to leave.
- Listen and meet the survivor where they are. Don’t tell them to leave. Hear where they are coming from and support them in the ways that they need. Listen to the survivor and decide what to say next based on their reactions to what you have said. If you say you are worried and the survivor gets defensive, then take a step back.
- Don’t assume that you know what is best. Respect the survivor’s ability to read their abuser and figure out what they are capable of.
- Get support for yourself. Supporting a survivor can be very difficult and at times frustrating. Find yourself a support who isn’t the survivor with whom you can vent, talk, or think about how you can best be helpful. You can always call us for this type of help.
Show your support in other ways. You can get one of our magnets and put it on your refrigerator. This may tell the survivor that you are open to talking about domestic violence or it may give the survivor a phone number to call when they are ready to seek support.
6 THINGS NOT TO SAY TO A LGBQ/T FRIEND WHO IS EXPERIENCING PARTNER ABUSE
Why don’t you just leave?
I would never put up with that.
Unless you are leaving, I don’t want to hang out with you.
Your partner (or boyfriend, girlfriend, boo, etc) is a #%*@#!
You should seek couple’s counseling.
LGBQ/T people don’t abuse.
Supporting a friend who is going through partner abuse can be hard. Please know that you can call our hotline to get support and information about how to help your friend. 617-742-4911 (voice), 617-227-4911 (TTY), or 800-832-1901 (Toll-Free).