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Domestic Violence: What can we do to help?

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So far in this series on domestic violence, we have looked at exactly what domestic violence is, why the topic is important, what domestic violence looks like, and the reasons survivors don't leave. Today we look at what survivors needs from us and resources to get them help.

For survivors of domestic violence, every day can be a challenge. They know that the situation in which they find themselves is dangerous. They understand that getting away from the situation is probably what needs to happen, but for many reasons (as we examined in the last post) leaving is difficult or doesn't seem like an option.

As a friend or loved one of someone who experiencing domestic violence, these are the things we can do to help:

  • Respect the Survivors Confidentiality: In other words, keep what is happening between the two of you, especially if the survivor is considering leaving the relationship. The reason for this is that when a survivor is leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous time for him or her. Batterers tend to have an attitude of, “If I can't have you, no one will.” Most murders between an abuser and the person he or she is abusing occur during the dissolution of the relationship. For this reason, limiting the people who know can help the survivor maintain safety. It's difficult to know who might tell the abuser about the survivor's plans.

  • Listen to the Survivor without Judgment: A survivor of domestic violence is criticized and judged on a daily basis. If he or she has turned to you for support, they are looking for empathy and help. Don't judge. Just listen and offer support.

  • Reassure the Survivor: Many survivors put the blame and responsibility for the abuse directly on themselves. They often voice the belief that if they were just quieter, smarter, better, prettier, or more obedient then the abuse would stop. Reassuring him or her that the responsibility for the abuse lays squarely on the batterer helps survivors to gain a more realistic view of the situation in which they find themselves.

  • Respect the Survivor's Autonomy: Some of us might find ourselves thinking that the survivor needs someone to tell them what to do because he or she is not making good decisions. This is definitely a belief that hurts rather than helps. A majority of survivors are good at taking care of their day-to-day activities. Remember that he or she has been surviving in a war zone – that takes a lot of critical thinking and survival skills. Support the survivor's rights and ability to make decisions for their selves and their family, even if you don't necessarily agree with the decisions.

  • Respect the Survivor's Boundaries: When a person has been surviving day-to-day in abuse, what they view as appropriate and inappropriate in relationships with others often changes from what those who are not in violent relationships feel is appropriate and inappropriate. Some survivors might enjoy physical contact such as hugs or handshakes, but others might find this kind of physical contact frightening or harmful. Be sure to respect the survivor's wishes when it comes to things like physical contact, sharing of information, amount and type of information shared, and personal space.

  • Refer the Survivor to Community Services: Many agencies exist solely to help those living in domestic violence. A partial list of these appears below. These agencies can help with information, legal advice and representation, emergency housing, transitional housing, clothing, restraining orders, counseling, transportation, and other day-to-day needs of a survivor and his or her family. In addition, many agencies provide safety planning to aid the survivor in leaving the relationship in as safe a manner as possible. This is a crucial step in the survivor breaking away.

For those who are willing to help survivors but lack the training or expertise to do so, the following resources are available for those in the San Angelo area as well as for those in Texas:

  • Family Shelter: This organization assists those experiencing domestic violence in Tom Green County and the surrounding 14 counties. They provide case management, legal advocacy, victim advocacy, educational services, emergency housing, and transitional housing. They can be reached at 1-800-749-8631.

  • Open Arms Rape Crisis Center and LGBT+ Services: This San Angelo organization provides a 24-hour hotline for those affected by sexual violence or discrimination, survivor advocacy, individual and group support, counseling, information and referrals, accompaniment services, LGBT+ services, and education and prevention services. 1-800-656-HOPE

  • Tom Green County Sheriff's Department Crisis Intervention Unit: This organization serves Tom Green County through crisis counseling, community referrals, assistance with Emergency Protective Orders, court accompaniment, and stand-by to retrieve property. (325) 658-3921

  • The Texas Council on Family Violence has a wealth of information on domestic violence as well as links to additional resources.

  • The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault has an informative website regarding sexual violence including the ability to locate crisis centers.

  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence compiles information from across the United States and can be an excellent resource:

  • The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence also has a wealth of information for those in the United States:

For those who want to help survivors of domestic violence, the process can be daunting and overwhelming. Some helpers can become traumatized helping those experiencing trauma, so be sure to practice good self-care and reach out for help when you need it.

Have additional resources or information? Share it with us below.

Barbara ColemanComment