Domestic violence is a terrifying and prevalent issue in today’s society. In fact, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men have been the victim of physical violence by a partner. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive approximately 20,800 calls (National Coalition against Domestic Violence). Whether you want to help a friend or family member you fear is being abused or you wish to help victims in your community or beyond, there are many ways you can aid victims on the long journey to find peace and safety.
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On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
Domestic violence occurs when a family member or intimate partner chooses to control another through any means including verbal, financial emotional or physical abuse. Persons living in the midst of domestic violence not only fear staying but also of leaving. Often when a women leaves her abuser she must do so quickly, secretly and bringing with her few to no belongings. And these women have reason to be fearful as recent statistics reveal that 1 in 3 female murder victims are killed by intimate partners (National Coalition against Domestic Violence).
While the numbers are frightening, every day victims escape their abusers and can only survive with the help of strangers. They have a long, lonely, challenging road ahead of them to rebuild their lives. You can help these brave survivors by supporting the programs and shelters that stand ready to welcome them. Monetary donations are necessary to keep these programs running and your volunteer hours are a valuable contribution as well.
Everyday household items can help survivors of abuse start to feel confident about starting their independent lives. Whether at a shelter or eventually on their own, receiving new items like cutlery, dishware, pots and pans, and linens go a long way to creating a comfortable, homey environment and to mentally encourage these women to be strong in their path to independence.
How to help a loved one in an abusive relationship
- Speak up. Meet at a safe and confidential location and speak honestly about your concerns. Withhold any comments that could seem judgmental or accusing. Express your full support and assurance that you are available to help however and whenever your friend is ready.
- Listen. Frequently an abuser will attempt to cut off relationships leaving the victim with few people to confide in. Let her/him speak and be heard. Show empathy for your friend's feelings even if you cannot understand them.
- Stress the positive. Abusers stay in control by making victims feel responsible for the abuse. Remind your friend about her accomplishments. Give her concrete proof that she is smart and talented and deserves to be treated with respect. Let her know that she is the same person she was before the abusive relationship and help to build up her self-esteem.
- Don't force your will. Unfortunately, the victim must choose to leave on her own. You cannot force the issue or you may drive her away from you and towards the abuser. Try to steer clear of criticizing the abuser. This may also turn the victim away from you.
- Emphasize local support organizations. There are people specifically trained to help victims escape what can be very dangerous situations. Recognize your role as a supportive friend but remember you are not an expert. Do the research before hand and come with information about programs in your are that can help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE is a valuable resource no matter your location.
- Be in it for the long haul. Just deciding to speak openly to your friend about your concerns is likely a difficult step for you. But, remember, this is the first step in what will likely be a very long journey. You may feel frustration and anxiety as you watch the situation unfold but your ongoing friendship and support could eventually save your friend's life.
Domestic violence organizations, women's shelters, and other organizations that exist to support victims need your help to continue to be a lifeline to victims. Don't hesitate to help in whatever way, be in small or large, that you are able.
Statistics courtesy of thehotline.org and ncadv.org.