How Can I Support My Loved One After Abuse?

Supporting a loved one during or following an unhealthy or abusive relationship can be challenging. You want to be there for them, but fear that trying to intervene might create a rift in your relationship and you’ll lose them as a friend. We understand what you’re going through, and we’re here to provide you with tips and strategies to support your loved one in a productive way.

Abuse looks different in every relationship. Whether physical, sexual, or emotional, these warning signs can help you identify if your loved one is experiencing abuse:

  • They withdraw from friendships and relationships
  • They look to their partner for permission
  • Their partner has unrealistic expectations for the relationship
  • Physical signs of abuse such as bruising or other injuries
  • The relationship starts of extremely strong (“love bombing”)
  • Expressing feelings of anxiety or fear around the relationship

How to help

When you’re looking to support a loved one experiencing abuse, remember that showing love, respecting their agency, and supporting their decision is crucial. The way that you begin the conversation and express your concerns can make all the difference.

We suggest beginning a conversation in a private, safe space and start on a positive note. Ensure that your loved one knows how much you care about them, and that your concern comes from a place of love. Some helpful ways to express this are:

  • “I’m worried that you aren’t receiving the type of love that you deserve.”
  • “This must be very difficult for you, and I am grateful that you are opening up to me.”
  • “You are not alone, I’m here for you no matter what.”
  • “What can I do to help?”

When it comes to supporting a loved one, we suggest that you DO

  • Prioritize maintaining contact with them throughout the relationship
  • Help them connect with community resources
  • Offer to help them create a safety plan
  • Provide a thoughtful ear to listen

And that you DON’T

  • Blame them for the abuse
  • Abandon them if they don’t act or respond in the way that you think they should
  • Express your feelings in a way that can make them distance themselves from you
  • Preach to them like a professional

If someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, it’s important that you show your consistent love and support through listening, asking how you can help, and sharing resources. While you might feel strongly about them leaving the relationship, pushing too hard or giving an ultimatum can cause further isolation.

Sharing resources

There are many resources that you can share with your loved one to ensure that they are receiving the support that they need. Below are just a few centers, networks, and hotlines that support survivors of domestic violence.

National Domestic Violence Hotline https://www.thehotline.org/

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence https://nrcdv.org/

Victim Connect Resource Center https://victimconnect.org/

What Jessica offers

Relationship coaches are equipped to support you or your loved one as you work through an abusive relationship. At the Jessica Yaffa Coaching Institute, relationship coaches offer both one on one and couples’ sessions to help you better understand yourself in the context of an intimate relationship. Coaching sessions are tailored to meet your unique needs and often surround topics related to self-worth, unhealthy dynamics, toxic patterns, communication, pre-marital preparation, and goal setting. The institute also offers online relational workshops in addition to in person relational retreats that create a supportive and empowering environment to enhance interpersonal connections and emotional intimacy. You can find more information about relationship coaching and relational workshops and retreats at https://www.jessicayaffa.org/

Sources

https://www.loveisrespect.org/supporting-others-dating-abuse/supporting-a-family-member/

https://www.goodrx.com/health-topic/mental-health/how-to-help-someone-in-an-abusive-relationship

https://www.joinonelove.org/learn/help_a_friend/