We’d like to think that Family Violence doesn’t occur within any families near us, but we know all too well that it does. Family Violence is about one (usually male*) partner seeking to exercise power and control over the other (usually female) partner, making her feel vulnerable, afraid, and alone. It can be a very complex dynamic, one that is difficult to discern and remedy. Enlisting the help of a professional is usually a good idea, however, there are still lots of ways that you can help. Here are some ideas.
If someone discloses FV to you: listen, listen, listen. Even without doing anything, they’ll feel better that they’re not alone, and that someone else knows. Did I mention listen? And then listen some more. Oh, and listen.
Don’t let your desire to help the situation overstep your knowledge and abilities. It’s not all on you to solve everything. You’re helping well by doing what’s within your skill set. You could pray for them, drive her to a counsellor, cook a meal for the family, or invite them over to your place for some ‘down time’. Leave the trauma counselling and relationship mediation to the pros.
Be guided by what she wants. She’s already got her partner blaming her and making her feel bad, so try not to double the burden by telling her she needs to leave, or that it’s her fault if she stays. Discuss her options with her, help her to make informed choices, then support her in her decisions. The abuse she’s been through will probably mess up her clear thinking a bit, but she still knows the situation better than anyone else. Only approach him and speak with him about it if she says its ok, otherwise you might make things worse. More than anything, she needs someone alongside her to care.
Be gentle and kind in all your dealings with everyone involved. While you’re speaking with a victim of family violence, be mindful that she’s likely to have experienced some psychological or physical trauma due to the violence, which will leave her ‘on edge,’ or hyper-vigilant. You’ll serve her well and help her to regulate herself if you remain calm and settled while you’re with her. Meet violence with peace, abuse with respect, and harm with love. Never excuse or overlook the abusive behaviours, but be kind and gentle while you say its not ok.
Keep in touch and follow up. See her regularly, drop over some baking, text or call when you can, remain a part of her life. Isolation is one of the biggest risk factors in Family Violence, so make sure she knows you’re around, and that she’s not alone.
Family Violence is a very difficult and complex problem, and no two situations are exactly the same. This ‘general advice’ may be helpful, but please, if you’re experiencing family violence, or you’re supporting someone who is, seek the advice of a reputable counsellor, social worker or psychologist.
*Overwhelmingly, women are on the receiving end of family violence, and men are those exercising the violence. In this article I have referred to genders as such, but equally I acknowledge and stand with victims where the gender pattern differs.
Kylie is a Christian Psychologist whose client demographic includes perpetrators and survivors of Family Violence. Kylie is a graduate of SMBC.
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