When someone you care about is being abused, there are many practical ways you can provide support. As we’ve discussed in the previous blogs in this series, these ways may include asking them what help they need, helping them to connect with resources in their community, and taking action to promote their safety. These are all really important and meaningful ways you can potentially help someone who is being abused.
Our fifth step in how to help someone you know who is being abused is just as important, and it’s something that virtually anyone can do. It requires no special training or knowledge about intimate partner violence. All it requires is a genuine intention to support and build up the person you care about.
To put Step 5 in context, let’s consider what life is like for many survivors of intimate partner violence. Not only is there often physical and/or sexual violence, but abusive people often regularly attempt to tear down, humiliate, blame, manipulate, and control their partners. Imagine being on the receiving end of this. Perhaps every day (and maybe even multiple times a day), you are told you are worthless, ugly, or stupid. You are told that you are bringing on your own abuse because you do “everything” wrong. Your feelings, needs, and opinions don’t matter, and you likely have no say in many of the decisions that impact your daily life. You’re told that you’re not allowed to make dreams for the future, and, indeed, you may become hopeless and feel that things will never change.
One powerful antidote to the disparagement that survivors face through abuse is a strong network of friends, family members, professionals, and others who provide consistent reminders of the survivor’s value and worth. Wouldn’t it be amazing if, for each disparaging action or word that a survivor received from their abuser, they heard at least ten positive, affirming messages from others? What difference would it make if every time they heard, “You’re worthless,” they could draw upon the many times they’ve heard from others:
- “Your life has value.”
- “You matter.”
- “You are important.”
- “You deserve to be treated with love and respect.”
- “I am concerned for your safety.”
- “It’s not your fault.”
- “You are an amazing person.”
- “I admire your strength and courage.”
- “You deserve a peaceful and happy life.”
- “You are worthy.”
After being told repeatedly that their lives and needs are worthless, unfortunately many survivors begin to believe this. With the support of others, survivors can be reminded of their own worth, which can be a critical step in their process of moving toward safety.
We may never be able to silence the cruelty of some callous abusers. However, we can drown their cruelty with the powerful forces of love and respect.
This information has been adapted from materials in the How to Help a Friend Collection from See the Triumph. Visit See the Triumph at www.seethetriumph.org for more information.