Recognizing Roadblocks for Victims of Domestic Abuse: Family members and friends of people suffering from domestic violence or abuse are often confused about the best way to help. They may have trouble understanding why a victim does not take action. Though it may not be apparent to outsiders, abuse victims frequently face serious impediments to seeking relief. Early signs of abuse can be subtle and easy to dismiss, particularly if a victim feels emotionally close to or dependent on an abuser. Sometimes a victim becomes acclimated to an abusive situation over time and almost begins to believe that it is normal. Some victims feel that they are to blame for the abuse and believe that they should be able to stop it by changing their behavior. Victims who have children with an abuser may believe that the children are better off living with both parents, even if the relationship between the parents is not healthy.
Financial dependence can be one of the greatest impediments to taking action. Domestic violence victims often rely on an abuser for financial support and may have children who also rely on such support. Abusers frequently take steps to ensure that this kind of dependency continues so that they can maintain a position of power. They may prohibit a partner or household dependent from working, confiscate paychecks, block access to bank accounts, or otherwise interfere with efforts to establish financial independence.
For some, the greatest impediment to taking action is fear of retaliation, especially fear of physical violence directed toward the victim, the victim’s children, or other people close to the victim. These fears are very rational. Anyone who has been the target of violence or serious physical threats needs to proceed cautiously in order to avoid further angering the perpetrator while still in a vulnerable position. It is imperative that the victim create a safety plan without the knowledge of the perpetrator, and that the safety plan include measures that will prevent the perpetrator from discovering the new location of the victim and other vulnerable persons.
How You Can Help
If you want to help your friend or family member, you must first understand that intervening impulsively can increase the danger for her[i] as well as put you in danger yourself. In an emergency situation it is always appropriate to call 911. Under any other circumstances, take the time to learn all that you can about domestic violence and abuse, and then help your friend make a careful plan. The following tips can get you started in the right direction:
Talk to Your Friend or Family Member about Domestic Abuse
Tell her that you are concerned about specific incidents or specific behavior that you have observed.
- If she tells you that she thinks the abuse is her fault, tell her clearly that it is not, and that an abuser usually needs professional help to change abusive behavior.
- If she tells you that the abuser has apologized and promised to change, ask her how often this has happened, and for how long he has been able to stick to these promises.
- If she expresses love or concern for the abuser, do not argue or criticize; stress the importance of taking steps to ensure her safety, regardless of the emotional attachment.
- Ask how you can help—with children, pets, transportation, or by just listening.
- Offer to go with her whenever she is ready to make a police report, go to the courthouse, or talk to a lawyer.
Help Your Friend or Family Member Make a Safety Plan:
- Locate information on domestic violence resources and share this information with her.
- Offer to let her use your phone or your computer to maintain anonymity while she researches options.
- Help her focus on the basics of a safety plan:
- Where will she go in an emergency?
- How will she obtain necessary emergency funds?
- Who can she reach out to?
- Offer to keep a “safety kit” for her at your home, including things like:
- Spare keys
- Emergency cash
- A prepaid cell phone
- A change of clothes for herself and for any children she may have
- Important documents such as passports or birth certificates
- Contact information for friends, family and domestic violence resources
Help Lines for Advice & Support
If someone you know is experiencing signs of abuse in the context of a current or former intimate or household relationship, a domestic violence hotline responder can answer your questions:
New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline: 1 (800) 572-7233 (SAFE).
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1 (800) 799-7233 (SAFE).
FOR IMMEDIATE HELP CALL 911 OR YOUR LOCAL EMERGENCY SERVICE
Our attorneys can help you with restraining orders, temporary spousal support and child support. You can get out. You can live well with your children and you can stay safe. Call us: (888) 888-0919.