Winchester Medical Center

WIN 2015

Spirit of Women magazine is a national publication presented to women by hospitals and their physicians. The magazine provides up-to-date, evidence-based healthcare information and promotes our hospitals as leaders in women's health excellence.

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3 w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m W I N T E R 2 015 S P I R I T O F W O M E N SHUTTERSTOCK W e all believe it could never happen to us. We would never allow ourselves to fall victim. But what if someone you love is involved in an abusive relationship? How do you help her escape the trauma, shame, anguish and danger of domestic violence? Supporting someone you love who is involved in an abusive rela- tionship can be complicated. You may feel as if you are jeopardizing your friendship, and you may ques- tion whether or not you are being judgmental when you offer advice. Fortunately, with so much media attention on domestic violence, a spotlight is shining on ways you can help if you suspect your friend is a victim. Here are specific do's and don'ts for helping a loved one who is suffering from domestic abuse: Do's • Approach the other person at a time and place that is safe and confidential. • Start by expressing concern (i.e., "I am concerned someone may be hurting you, and I am worried about your safety.") • Take the time to listen, and believe what your loved one says. • Communicate that you care about your loved one's safety, that she does not deserve to be hurt, and that the abuse is not her fault. • Tell your loved one she is not crazy. A person who has been abused often feels upset, depressed, confused and scared. Let her know these are normal feelings. • Don't pressure your friend to leave the abusive relationship. There are many reasons she may be choosing to stay. It is possible the abuser has threatened to hurt her or her children if they try to leave. The abuser may control all of her finances and may have isolated the victim from friends and family, leaving her with very few resources of her own. The abuser may have promised to change, and the victim may still love him or her. It is never as simple as encouraging a victim to "just leave"—but by all means, communicate to your loved one that help does exist, and that people in the community care about her and her children and want them to be safe. • Do not feel the need to be an expert. Do not try to provide counseling or advice, but do con- nect your friend to trained people who can help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for referrals to resources in your area: 1-800-799-SAFE. Source: Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) abuseintervention.org • Tell her good things about her- self. Let her know you think she is smart, strong and brave. The abuser may be tearing down her self-esteem. • Respect the victim's choices. • Encourage the victim to build a wide support system. Help find a support group or encourage her to talk to friends and family. • Be patient. Self-empowerment may take longer than you want. Go at the victim's pace, not yours. • Connect her to domestic violence resources. If your area does not have its own help line, you can direct your loved one to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. • Consider calling your local domestic violence help line yourself—not on behalf of your friend, but to learn more about the kinds of help available, to ask questions specific to your situation, and to learn how you can be an effective and supportive ally. Don'ts • Don't accuse, diagnose or judge your loved one's choices, or draw conclusions about what she may be experiencing or feel- ing. And do not judge or criticize the abuser. It is never as simple as encouraging a victim to 'just leave'—but by all means, communicate to your loved one that help does exist… " "

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