How to Help Friends & Family

Helping Friends and Family

The following is information that can help you spot signs of abuse and offers tips on how to support someone experience abuse.

How Do I Recognize Domestic Violence?

Does your friend or family member…

  • Turn down social invitations or miss work or social engagements often?
  • Seem more withdrawn or isolated or seem to have lost confidence?
  • Become anxious or unusually quiet when their partner is around?
  • Have unexplained injuries or injuries that do not fit the explanation for how they happened?  Are they wearing unusually heavy make-up or covering up by dressing heavily for the season?
  • Receive an unusually high number of calls or text messages from their partner? Does it seem as though they have to “check-in” with their partner?
  • Seem sensitive about home life or do they hint about trouble at home?
  • Have a partner who publicly degrades them or uses verbal put downs?

Signs that could Signal Increased Danger

Research shows that these behaviors may indicate a growing risk of danger.  If your friend or family member tells you these kinds of things are happening, encourage them to contact one of our Hotline Advocates at our 24-hour hotline at 770 479-1703 to create a safety plan.

  • Abuser has a weapon
  • Victim is trying to end the relationship or take steps to gain independence (filing a protective order, “breaking-up”)
  • Abuser has threatened or attempted suicide
  • History of abuse and/or abuse is getting worse or happening more often
  • Abuser threatens to kill the victim
  • Abuser is stalking victim, perhaps with repeated phone calls, emails, and/or texting, showing up unexpectedly where the victim is working or socializing, or seeming always to know the victim’s whereabouts and what the victim has been doing.

What to Say and What Not to Say

Start the conversation by saying “I care about you,” or “I am worried for your safety.”

Point our specific behaviors or incidents that concern you.  For example, “I saw your partner grab your arm very hard and march you across the room.”

Don’t make blaming statements.   “Why don’t you just leave?”  or “I would never let someone put their hands on me.”

Don’t give advice.  Instead say “What do you think you should do?, or “You are the one who knows your situation best.”

Don’t tell others what your friend or family member has told you unless you have permission.  Instead encourage the victim to talk to others that may be able to help; advocates, neighbors, co-workers, faith leaders, other family and friends, etc.

Remain calm.  If you react strongly and insist that your friend or family member call the police immediately, for example, they may shut down.

Offer to help connect them with resources; let them know that calling a domestic violence program (commonly referred to as a “shelter”) does not mean they have to go to shelter or leave their partner immediately unless they choose to.

Leaving an abusive relationship can be extremely dangerous.  Creating a safety plan with a domestic violence advocate is essential to leaving an abusive relationship safely.

This person may not be ready to leave the relationship.  Say “I will be here for you even if I don’t understand all of your decisions.”

Do not push printed materials on your friend or family member; these can be found by the abuser and can increase the victim’s difficulty or danger.

Taking a non-judgemental position as a reliable resource is your best defense against the abuser’s efforts to separate your friend or family member from you support.

Remember to be careful.  Don’t place yourself in a position where the person who is being abusive could harm or manipulate you.  Don’t try to intervene directly if you witness a person being assaulted.  Dial 911 instead.


The above was excerpted with permission from Domestic Violence “What to do if Friends or Family members are being abused”  published by the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence.


Watching a friend or family member go through domestic violence can be scary. Join us in our Friends and Family Support Group!