To Friends and Family: What to Do If You Suspect Someone Is Being Abused

158_4189063If you suspect that someone you love or know is being abused, you must say something!  Don’t hesitate, or tell yourself it is none of your business, or that the person might not want to talk about it. There is a difference between expressing your concern and meddling. And even if the person denies it or tells you to mind your own business, speaking up in a gentle and non-judgmental way tells your friend or loved one that you are concerned and that they have allies who will listen if they ever need help. Remember:

  • Don’t judge.
  • Don’t give advice.
  • Don’t badmouth the person you suspect is abusing them.
  • Do listen.
  • Do state what you’ve observed.
  •  Do tell them that you will be there for them.

Sometimes, abuse will result in psychological changes that don’t have other explanations, such as a happy, confident person developing a low self-esteem; major personality shifts, such as a talkative, outgoing person becoming anxious and withdrawn; or more serious mood shifts, such as depression or suicide fixation.

Please note: these symptoms may be apparent, but may not be.  Many people experiencing abuse try to hide their problems from the world.  Some will “put on a happy face” and act like everything is normal (at least when others are looking).

Red Flags of Domestic Abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid of their partner, or overly anxious to please their partner
  • Check in often with their partner, or receive repeated phone calls from their partner, checking up on them and demanding to know where they are and what they are doing
  • Obeys orders from their partner, or agree with everything their partner says and does, even if what their partner says is not in their best interest
  • Mentions their partners temper, jealousy, or possessiveness (or you witness them first-hand)

Red Flags of Physical Violence

People who are being physically abused may:

  • Frequently miss work, school, or social gatherings without explanations, or with contradictory stories
  • Have frequent injuries that they blame on “accidents”
  • Wear clothing that hides bruises, burns or scars (e.g. wearing turtlenecks in summer to hide choke bruises or wearing sunglasses at night to hide black eyes)

Red Flags of Isolation or Financial Control

People who are being controlled may:

  • Rarely goes out into public without their partner
  • Must ask permission to go places or must frequently check in with their partner
  • Demonstrate a change in socializing that can’t be explained by other factors such as illness or work (e.g. a person who normally would attend frequent family gatherings or spend lots of time with friends now rarely goes out, especially without the partner)
  • Must ask permission to spend their own money, or refer to their joint income as belonging exclusively to their partner
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car

The best thing to do, if you see these signs, or if you suspect abuse, is to talk to the person in private, and let them know that you are concerned.  Tell them what you’ve observed that makes you feel worried.  Let them know that you are there, whenever they feel ready to talk about it. Don’t take it personally if they deny everything, tell you you’re wrong, or get angry.

Abusers control, intimidate, and manipulate their victims, meaning that your friend or loved one is feeling emotionally battered, depressed, drained, scared, ashamed, and confused. They have been isolated from friends, and trained not to trust anyone.  Let your friend or loved one know that whatever is said to you is kept in strict confidence and that you will help in any way you can.


Tags: Abusive Relationships; Families of battered women; domestic violence; help; intervention; signs of abuse; red flags of abuse and violence;