Surviving one of the most difficult life traumas you’ve ever had to face is an incredible feat.
Sadly, for the thousands of victims of domestic violence each year, getting out of the situation is only the beginning.
Thankfully, there are proven steps one can learn and apply to the next phase of their new beginning – and we can’t wait to share them with you.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADM), more than 10 million individuals are abused every year in America alone.
This calculates to 1 out of 4 women are abused.
Chances are you know someone or have bumped into someone who has been a victim of domestic violence – if you’re not experiencing it yourself.
And this is not just when a partner raises their voice or speaks disrespectfully, these are victims who have been beaten, pushed, punched, burned, strangled, and other atrocious offenses.
The first step for these victims is to gain a healthy separation from the abuser, which is more difficult than it sounds.
For women still in abusive relationships, or those coming out of one, there are ways you can support them and provide a sense of strength as they transition from an abusive situation to a new, healthy life.
Make their value known.
Oftentimes, victims of domestic abuse have low self-esteem and blame themselves for the violence afflicted on them.
Assure your friend there is nothing they did that justified their abuser’s behavior, that they are innately valued by God – and worthy and deserving of a healthy relationship.
Acknowledge their range of feelings about their situation.
It’s impossible to understand how a victim of domestic abuse is feeling. And it is not our job to tell them how they should feel.
Be an ear to their troubles, allowing them to process whatever emotions they feel without judgment. Encourage them to keep working through their emotions, not stifle them.
Kimberly Zapata, writing for Scary Mommy, was a victim of domestic violence and offers her take on how to handle the often conflicting emotions that result from being in an abusive relationship:
“My emotions ran the gamut, from guilt and anger to shame and despair. But validation is key. Let the individual know that these thoughts are normal but abuse is not. Violence is never okay.”
Express concern for their safety and give them a realistic way out.
It’s easy to feel isolated and alone when you are being tormented by an abuser.
If you’ve become suspicious of a friend’s situation, point out things you’ve observed that are not acceptable types of behavior and tell them you are concerned for their well-being.
Letting a victim know that what they’re going through is not okay and that you care can be the pivotal first step in leaving an abuser.
And be sure to provide a list of resources for safe housing, emergency personnel, crises hotlines, as well as the contact info for friends and family so they have a tangible course of action if they decide to leave the abuser or find themselves fleeing a dangerous situation.
Don’t let the support stop once a victim leaves the abuser.
According to Women Against Crime, many women who leave abusive relationships end up going back to their abusers and repeating the cycle all over again.
This may sound outrageous to you if you’ve never experienced domestic violence.
There is a lot of psychology behind why this occurs, which we won’t dive into here, but the important thing to note is having support AFTER the victim leaves is paramount to their success.
Schedule regular get-togethers and ask how they’re adjusting and processing their transition.
Assure your friend they are not alone and will become stronger every day they are away from their abuser.
Continue to provide resources for job opportunities, resume building, housing, support groups, and local mom groups if she has children.
While these steps certainly aid in the transition from being a victim of domestic abuse to becoming a healthy, independent individual, it doesn’t mean the process is simple or quick.
Allow time for your loved one to heal and never stop letting them know they are worthy of love and the effort.
(h/t Mommy Underground)