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How can you help a victim of domestic violence?

There are many people in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who may be aware of a family member or friend who is experiencing a situation involving domestic violence. At times, a domestic violence victim may have considered speaking loudly while in the middle of an abusive situation; however, something prevented the person from doing so. In most cases, a fear of consequences deters the person from doing so.

However, being a silent spectator to domestic violence is not a solution. Therefore, if a person sees a family member or friend who is being subjected to domestic abuse, the person should take all necessary steps to ensure that the abuse stops as quickly as possible. In order to accomplish that goal, the person will need to be aware that the domestic violence exists. After that, the person will need to educate family members and friends about what to look for, both in terms of who is being abused and who is doing the abusing.

If the family member or friend is a victim, first, the person should the authorities. The person should also ask the family member or friend if the abuse victim wants support. The person should explain to the victim that various programs at the local and state level help victims of domestic violence and the victim should consider getting in touch with one of those. The person also may offer the victim shelter and care for his or her children while the abuse victim is attending a domestic violence program.

However, if the family member or friend is the abuser, the approach will be different. Again, the first step should be calling the police. The person who is trying to help should also make it clear to the abuser that there are no excuses that support domestic violence and being an abuser can lead to serious consequences, such as job loss and criminal charges. The abuser needs to be held accountable, but, at the same time, that person needs help to break the cycle of abuse.

Source: Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, "How do I help someone?" accessed April 3, 2015

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