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Saturday, June 29, 2024

Supporting Victims of Abuse

Perhaps you haven’t experienced much abuse yourself but people you care about have and you would like to be supportive toward them. Here are some Dos and Don’ts:

• Let them know you care about them and want to support them. They might be reluctant to accept the offer, but just knowing that you care and that they have this option can ease them significantly.
• Remind them to take care of themselves, to put their needs and wants first. Their self-preservation instincts might be nearly non-existent if not just impaired.
• Insist (not obnoxiously) on being counted on. In case they didn’t hear you the previous times. In case they need and want your help but are afraid to ask for any reason.

• Assume they had it easy. You are not them. You don’t know how hard it was for them. Maybe you have little to no clue about the implications of the abuse they went through.
• Interrogate them. They’re probably still overwhelmed or exhausted, or maybe the wounds still hurt and reliving the experience is unbearable (if not just counterproductive). Instead, let them know you’ll listen if they ever wish to share more about it.
• Harshly lecture them. Sympathetic stories and lessons they can relate to and draw from can be relieving, but try not to be too preachy about their shortcomings.
• Say they should be grateful for this experience because it’ll make them stronger and wiser. More likely than not, this is not the time for this if they’re still struggling to recover. You can, however, acknowledge how sh*tty it was and then, when they’re more open to it, try to find some silver linings or to make some lemonade.
• Use their tragedy as an opportunity to prove yourself and/or show the world how charitable you are. Please don’t. Your why shapes your how.

Follow these suggestions along with some common sense and you’ll be on the right track to be a positive and constructive force in the lives of abuse victims. And remember, if you're trying to be supportive, the main point is for them to survive and recover from the abuse.

See also: What is abuse?