As much as we might want to ignore it, domestic abuse is an incredibly real, harrowing experience that many globally have to go through. Most relationships are supposed to offer us love, support, and stability through each part of our lives. However, some need to go through incredibly skewed, toxic versions where their haven becomes the very thing they need to fear. Domestic abuse can leave lasting mental and physical scars and can affect more than just the partner. Children can be incredibly traumatized living in a household where abuse is common, affecting them in ways more than one. There’s a lot we can do on an individual level to help victims of domestic abuse. If we all step up, we can reduce the stigma surrounding this topic and encourage victims to seek the help they need. Below, we’ll talk about some of the ways you can help someone dealing with domestic abuse.
1. Spot the Signs
One of the biggest reasons domestic abuse gets so out of hand is that it goes undetected for the longest time. Many victims try to resolve the problem privately, encouraging the abuser and creating a vicious cycle. Abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of age or gender, and it’s essential to keep an eye out for signs. If you suspect something is wrong in the relationship, it might be worth investigating the issue further. The sooner you spot the signs, the faster you can encourage your loved one to seek help.
One of the easiest ways is to look out for physical signs. You might spot bruises or see the victim commonly wearing long sleeves, high necks, and hats, even in hot weather. Additionally, you can spot signs of emotional abuse too. The victim might be scared that her partner would react to certain things and have a minimal social life. Abusers often seek to isolate their victims too. Furthermore, one of the prime domestic abuse signs is that the victim might start using drugs, prescription medication or show signs of anxiety, depression, and stress. When you’re looking out for these signs, you’re likely to notice if anything’s awry before things get out of hand.
2. Start a Conversation
Speaking up can be an incredibly frightening, traumatic experience for the victims. Abusers often isolate their victims to the degree where they feel no outside support is possible. Victims might start doubting everyone, or they might doubt their own story. Various other factors can keep victims from speaking up, even if they want to.
In such cases, you can start a conversation instead of waiting for the victim to speak up. If you think anything’s wrong or spot any of the signs above, you can cautiously broach the subject. You can ask them how things are going in the relationship, whether their partner has any anger issues, or you can mention that you’re concerned about them. Starting a conversation can help the victim speak up and be honest.
3. Believe the Victim
Although it sounds straightforward, most people have a much harder time believing the victim than you’d like to imagine. A lot of abusers are selfish, and some might even be psychopathic. However, even without being on such extremes, abusers know how much public image matters. Most abusers are incredibly charismatic and know how to make people like them.
So, when someone comes out and names them, the abuser’s friends, colleagues, and family members may have difficulty believing the victim. Additionally, abusers are excellent at portraying their partners as mentally unstable and emotional in front of others. When someone comes to you accusing someone of abusing them, they might seem highly emotional. However, you need to understand that emotional arousal is understandable in such situations. Even if you find it hard to believe the claims, you need to believe the victim when they come to you. Speaking out can be incredibly dangerous, and you need to offer your support every step of the way.
4. Give Them a Solid Plan
While offering support is essential, there’s only so much you can do while the victim is still in the abusive environment. Abuse usually starts small, with verbal taunts, which can soon escalate into yelling, demeaning comments, and intimidation. Verbal abuse can soon give way to physical abuse, which can escalate immensely. If the abuse goes on for too long, the abuser might start feeling like they can get away with everything.
To solve the issue for good, you need to give the victim a long-term solution. While the best-case scenario is to remove the victim from the situation immensely, it might not be immediately possible. You need to give the victim a solid plan they can adhere to if things ever get too far out of hand. You can help them think of an excuse to help them leave the house if they need to escape. Additionally, you can help them find an emergency place to stay, become their emergency contact, and help them hide essentials such as passports, necessary documentation, and medicine.
5. Be Patient
Abusers can be incredibly manipulative and can make the victim question their reality. It can keep the victim from escaping the situation and can help the abuser maintain their control. They might make the victim blame themselves by telling them they react because of the victim’s actions. Alternatively, they might also make the victim feel like the abuse is normal.
Additionally, after dealing with constant gaslighting and abuse for so long, the victim can start to question their reality. Furthermore, they might experience some form of Stockholm syndrome and be attached to the abuser despite their actions. In such cases, the victim might not immediately be ready to leave or report the abuser. They might even want to make amends and might defend the victim. In such cases, you need to be patient and keep supporting the victim without pressuring them to make any decisions. Your support needs to be unconditional, despite where the victim is in their journey. If you’re persistent, you can encourage the victim to seek the help they need and escape the situation with time.
Dealing with someone suffering from domestic abuse can be a frightening experience for the helper too. However, you need to put your fear aside and offer your support wherever possible. With community support, it can be possible to nip the issue in the bud. With solid plans like these, you can keep an eye out for domestic abuse and help your loved ones who might be suffering.