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How to Help a Friend

 It's really hard to see someone you care about get hurt. It's also hard to know what to do if your friend or classmate is the one who's doing the hurting. If you know someone who is being abused or being abusive, there are things you can do to help. Not doing anything actually excuses the abuse.

Help a friend who's being abused

Approach your friend in a sensitive way. For example, you could say, "I'm worried about you because" or "I felt bad when I saw her"

Assure your friend that he or she is not to blame.

Help your friend understand that the abuse is NOT his or her fault. No matter what someone does, no one deserves abuse, only respect.

Affirm your friend.

Emotional and verbal abuse can damage someone's self-esteem very badly. Affirm the great qualities you see in your friend.

Listen and be nonjudgmental.

Comments like "Why did you do that to make him treat you like that?" or "Just break up with her! I don't understand why you're still with her" may make your friend feel attacked and alone. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. Respect your friend's decision in the end, even if you disagree.

Help your friend think things through.

Work with your friend to sort out his or her thoughts about the relationship, like whether he or she should stay in it or break up.

Keep your friend's safety in mind.

Talk to your friend about being safe and how your friend can protect herself or himself. Help your friend to complete a safety plan. (to be hyperlinked)

Encourage your friend to do things outside the relationship.

Your friend may feel alone and isolated, especially if the dating partner is being very controlling. Hanging out with friends or family, or doing things that he or she used to do, can help your friend become more independent.

Urge your friend to get help.

Counselors, pastors, teachers, and other adults can provide your friend with the support and services that he or she needs. Volunteer to go with your friend to get help.

Be patient.

It might be frustrating to see a friend who doesn't know what to do, especially when you see how hurtful the relationship is. But try to be patient. Breaking up is hard, and it can be even harder if someone is being abused. Let your friend know you'll be there for her or him.

Help someone who's being abusive

Talk to your friend if it's safe.

Talk about your concerns in a tactful way. Be specific about what you saw and how it made you feel. If your friend makes excuses for his or her behavior, call it what it is-abuse. Be clear that you don't think your friend is a bad person-it's just that abusive behaviors are bad.

Affirm your friend.

A little encouragement can go a long way. It shows you care and could motivate the abuser to continue making progress.

Encourage honesty.

Tell your friend that you won't condemn him or her for what is shared. Be supportive, and let your friend feel safe in sharing openly with you.

Help your friend sort through his or her thoughts and feelings.

Explain that possessiveness and jealousy are not love.

Remind your friend that abuse is a choice.

Abuse doesn't just happen-it's a result of learned behaviors. Tell your friend he or she can choose respect over abuse.

Urge your friend to get help.

Counselors, teachers, coaches, pastors, and other adults your friend trusts could provide some valuable help and services. Offer to go with him or her to get help.