Victims of Abuse
This page includes information and research on victims of abuse. At the bottom of the page is Other Resources, a listing with links to view and print out a number of documents on this subject.
How to Help Victims of Domestic Violence
Suggestions for Family, Friends and Professionals
- Ask the question. The myth is that victims of abuse don’t tell. Abuse victims will often tell if they are asked the right questions in a safe environment. They may get angry or push you away, but the risk of not asking can be deadly.
- Believe them. Abuse victims usually minimize the truth, not exaggerate it. There are many things they fear — not being believed is one of them.
- Keep the information confidential. Discussing the abuse with others may increase the danger to the victim if the abuser finds out.
- Respect their choices. Deciding to leave a relationship is a difficult decision. There are many factors impacting this choice. Issues such as finances, child care, housing, self-esteem, religious and family messages about divorce / separation, safety, etc. are realistic concerns. Each person will make decisions that are best for them in their own time. Pressuring a person to make choices before they are ready will only result in unsuccessful attempts at leaving and emotional distancing from you.
- Safety first! Offer safety options. Provide the number to their county’s domestic violence program. These programs offer free counseling, legal advocacy, support from a 24 hour hotline and shelter. Provide information on the laws that protect victims of domestic violence. Do not encourage confrontation of the abuser either alone or with other people present. This may put the victim at risk.
- Do not minimize the abuse. Verbal, emotional, financial and sexual abuse are just as destructive as physical abuse. Domestic violence almost always escalates, and each act should be treated seriously.
- Avoid being judgmental. Do not make excuses for the abusive behavior. Using abuse and violence are a conscious choice to solve a problem. The victim is NEVER to blame for the violence. The choice to use violence is the sole responsibility of the person perpetrating the violence.
- Give support, not advice. Offer a place to stay, food, clothing, a financial loan, baby sitting, etc. Offer your support — no matter what they decide to do. Do not tell the person what they should do. Be cautious about wanting to rescue your friend or family member.
- Do not suggest marriage or couples counseling. Marriage or couples counseling places the victim in danger of more or increased violence. It should not be used until the abuser has received extensive individual counseling and the abuse has ceased completely.
- Focus on their strength and progress. You may be frustrated in your attempts to help. Know that every helping hand extended makes it that much easier to eventually be safe. Give as many alternatives as possible. Do not get angry, for that only benefits you. It is necessary for each person to make their own choices in their own time. Don’t give up — this is a time you are needed most.
- Take care of yourself. Do not neglect yourself or your family in your efforts to help. You will burn out, get angry and become ineffective.
- Educate yourself about domestic violence. There are many great books available in the library and in the stores in the self-help section. Contact your domestic violence agency and talk with a counselor about basic issues and your feelings regarding the situation.
For The Victim
How To Love Yourself
Compiled by Louise L. Hay of the Louise L. Hay Educational Institute
Stop all criticism. Criticism never changes a thing. Refuse to criticize yourself. Accept yourself exactly as you are. Everybody changes. When you criticize yourself, your changes are negative. When you approve of yourself, your changes are positive.
- Don’t scare yourself. Stop terrorizing yourself with your thoughts. It’s a dreadful way to live. Find a mental image that gives you pleasure (mine is yellow roses), and immediately switch your scary thought to a pleasure thought.
- Be gentle and kind and patient. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself as you learn the new ways of thinking. Treat yourself as you would someone you really loved.
- Be kind to your mind. Self-hatred is only hating your own thoughts. Don’t hate yourself for having the thoughts. Gently change your thoughts.
- Praise yourself. Criticism breaks down the inner spirit. Praise builds it up. Praise yourself as much as you can. Tell yourself how well you are doing with every little thing.
- Support yourself. Find ways to support yourself. Reach out to friends and allow them to help you. It is being strong to ask for help when you need it.
- Be loving to your negatives. Acknowledge that you created them to fulfill a need. Now you are finding new, positive ways to fulfill those needs. So lovingly release the old negative patterns.
- Take care of your body. Learn about nutrition. What kind of fuel does your body need to have optimum energy and vitality? Learn about exercise. What kind of exercise can you enjoy? Cherish and revere the temple you live in.
- Mirror work. Look into your eyes often. Express this growing sense of love you have for yourself. Forgive yourself looking into the mirror. Talk to your parents looking into the mirror. Forgive them too. At least once a day say, “I love you; I really love you!”
- Love yourself—do it now. Don’t wait until you get well, or lose the weight, or get the new job, or the new relationship. Begin now — and do the best you can.
The Aftermath of Violence
It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement and remembering.
In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure that no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization. After every atrocity, one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case, it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.
The perpetrator’s arguments prove irresistible when the bystander faces them in isolation. Without a supportive social environment, the bystander usually succumbs to the temptation to look the other way. This is true even when the victim is an idealized and valued member of society.
Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror
By Judith Lewis Herman, M.D.
The following documents are in pdf format. You’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view. Don’t have Acrobat Reader? Get it here.
50 Obstacles to Leaving
Addressing Concerns About Prosecution
Addiction and Abusive Relationships
Barriers to Leaving
Blaming by Naming: Codependence
Characteristics of Women
Collaborating with Formerly Battered Women
Denial and Defense Mechanisms
Effects of Domestic Violence on the Victim
How My Relationship Affects My Life
Identify Your Dream
Learned Helplessness vs. Survivor Hypothesis
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: An Interview
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Reactions to Domestic Violence
Relationship Bill of Rights
Scripture and Domestic Violence
Signs of Healing
Stages of Grief: Ending an Abusive Relationship
Stalkers and Stalking
Victims Are Really Survivors
What’s Love Got To Do With it?