Lori Wolfe, L.P.C.C-S, is Director of Counseling Services; Mental Health & Sexual Abuse Programs at Ravenwood Health.

Editor’s note: Continuing with October’s domestic violence awareness theme, Ravenwood Health’s Lori Wolfe, L.P.C.C-S, wrote a post about what to do if you suspect a friend or peer is experiencing an abusive or potentially abusive situation. Lori is Director of Counseling Services / Mental Health and Sexual Abuse Programs.

Suspecting that someone you care about is in an abusive relationship can be very hard.  Knowing how to help in these situations is even harder. If you suspect that a friend or loved one is experiencing intimate partner abuse or IPV, you may wonder “how can I help?” 

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and is good time to talk about how to help a friend or relative who may be in an abusive intimate relationship. While it is impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, there are some telltale signs and symptoms of emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you witness these warning signs of abuse in a friend, family member or co-worker, take them seriously.

People who are being abused may:

  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
  • Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they are doing
  • Receive frequent calls or texts from their partner
  • Talk about their partner’s jealousy, possessiveness or temper
  • Have frequent injuries
  • Frequently miss work, school or social occasions without explanation
  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car

How Can I Help?

While your gut instinct might be to try and help IPV victims leave an abusive relationship, this could be potentially dangerous for all involved. Instead, provide gentle non-judgmental support. Listen and believe them. Let them know you are concerned for their safety. In addition, take into consideration the following Do’s and Don’ts:

Do:                                                                                

  • Ask if something is wrong
  • Express concern: Be honest about concerns for safety          
  • Listen and validate
  • Offer specific help: Childcare, transportation          
  • Support their decisions          

Don’t

  • Wait for them to come to you
  • Judge or blame
  • Pressure them
  • Give advice
  • Place conditions on your support

If you would like to discuss a situation where you suspect intimate partner abuse or domestic violence, please call the 24/7 Copeline at 888-285-5665.

 Lori Wolfe is currently reading Educated by Tara Westover.