What to do to help a friend of family member in a violent relationship

Spartans for Safety - Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence

Do you know someone who is being abused by their partner or family member? Here a few do's and don’ts of what to do if someone you know is a victim domestic violence.

Millions of American are physically and emotionally abused by their spouses/partners/family members each year. In fact, one in three women is physically or sexually abused by her partner at some point in her life.  That means that for most of us, someone we know – our mother, sister, friend, neighbor, or co-worker – is a victim of domestic violence.  And there are men experiencing domestic violence at the hands of their spouses/partners, also.

Is someone you care about being abused?  Does your friend’s partner exert an unusual amount of control over her/his activities or her contact with friends and family?  Does your friend’s partner demonstrate extreme jealousy?  Does your friend’s partner ridicule her/him publicly or call her/him names?  Does your friend have visible injuries, such as black eyes, bruises or broken bones?  Have you noticed changes in your friend’s or the children’s behavior?


  • Let your friend know you believe them.

  • Listen to what your friend is saying. Interrupting and saying things like, “I would never put up with that!” is unhelpful and may actually do harm.

  • Tell your friend they don’t deserve to be hurt and that they are not to blame. No one deserves to be mistreated and there is no excuse for abuse.

  • Point out the unfairness of how your friend is being treated and what your fears for them are.

  • Allow your friend to feel the way they do.

  • Find out what your friend wants to do about their relationship and support them no matter what they decide.

  • Let your friend know abuse usually gets worse over time.

  • Tell your friend you’ll be there if they ever need you.

  • Expect your friend to be confused, about their feelings and about what to do. Expect them to change their mind, maybe even a few times.

  • Watch your body language and respect your friend’s right to personal space. If your friend has been hurt, they may not want to be hugged.

  • Help your friend become informed. Tell them help is available. Domestic Violence Resource Center staff are available at all times. Call or have your friend call our 24-Hour Crisis Line at 503.469.8620 or toll free 1.866.469.8600.

  • Remember your friend may feel guilty after sharing the story of their abuse for ‘telling’ on their partner.


  • Make judgments. Your values and beliefs may be different, and there is a big difference between helping figure out solutions and telling what someone should or should not do.

  • Give advice. Instead, talk about your friend’s choices, help them find out who may be able to help, and offer to go with them.

  • Ask unnecessary questions. Your questions must be helpful, not nosy.

  • Overreact. If you do, your friend may feel stupid or embarrassed. If you let your feelings get in the way, it won’t help theirs.

  • Confront your friend’s abusive partner about the abuse. If the partner is violent, it may be dangerous for you and your friend.

There is help available!

  • If you are a member of the SJSU community, you can contact Counseling Services at 408-924-5910 for information, referrals and support. Confidentiality is respected.

  • You can also contact these community organizations: