Millions of Americans are the victims of domestic abuse yearly. It’s likely that you have either faced it yourself or have a loved one who has. But what about your loved ones who are currently experiencing violence? How do you help them? If you’re noticing signs of domestic violence, or if your loved one has confided in you, there are steps you can take to help. Learn what you can do from an experienced domestic violence lawyer.
Signs of Domestic Violence
If you suspect that your friend or family member is experiencing domestic violence, there are some signs you can look for. Some are more obvious than others. You might notice…
- Their partner or family member shows signs of possessiveness or a controlling nature
- Their self-esteem and self-worth has taken a nosedive since entering the relationship
- Their partner is excessively jealous
- Their partner yells at or humiliates them frequently
- They frequently have bruises or other injuries
- They no longer have time to spend with friends or family, or people other than their partner (Abusers work to isolate their victims from a support system as a way of trapping them).
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to warning signs of domestic abuse. If your loved one hasn’t confided in you that they are being abused, there are certain ways to handle the situation, and it must be done delicately.
Supporting Your Loved One
Your first instinct may be to get the help of the police or a domestic violence lawyer. While this is necessary in the eventual resolution of the situation, this isn’t always the right, first step. Often, many victims of domestic violence are not ready to confront the fact that they are victims. They may have a lot of shame around the situation, and abusers often make their victims feel that they are at fault for their own abuse.
Don’t begin by telling them they are being abused and how they should handle it, although this may be your first instinct. Instead, start by expressing concern in a safe, private place away from the abuser. Listen to and support your loved one, and believe what they have to say. Do not be judgemental in any way. You need to validate them and remind them that they do not deserve to be hurt and that they are not to blame. That is so important, as they may feel it is their fault. Work to build up their self-esteem by reminding them of their worth and all of their positive qualities. For them to take the first steps towards leaving the situation, they need to believe they deserve to leave. Help them rebuild a support system. Abusers work to actively isolate their victims and drive their loved ones away so as to maintain control over their victim. By encouraging and helping your loved one rebuild those connections, you are building a strong foundation to support them when they leave. Ultimately, you need to put the power in your loved one’s hands. You need to remind them that they are strong and that they call the shots. Reminding them of their power can lead to the eventual will power they need to stand up for themselves and leave an abusive situation.
When your friend or family member has decided that they are ready to take the next step in leaving a bad situation, you should have the resources to help them. You want to know what to do ahead of time so that you can get them out of the situation as quickly as possible and as safely as possible. You will want the number of your local domestic violence helpline. You will also need to reach out to them ahead of time to learn about resources they have to offer.
You may also want to have the contact number of a domestic violence lawyer who can help in setting up a DVRO (domestic violence restraining order). They can also assist in pressing charges. You want an attorney who has extensive experience in the field of domestic violence, and who can handle the case delicately and discreetly. If your loved one is married to their abuser, a domestic violence lawyer can also aid in divorce litigation – especially if children are involved. In these matters, where there is a lot of hostility, you need an aggressive attorney who can work tirelessly to get justice for your loved one and their children, and to safely extricate them from a violent situation.
Courts tend to favor the interests of the abused spouse, and typically take accusations of abuse very seriously, especially if children are involved. If you have questions about what qualifies as domestic abuse in a court of law, and what your next steps should be in helping your friend, there are a couple resources you can use…
Domestic Abuse Intervention Services
National Domestic Violence Hotline
LPEP Law – Domestic Violence Lawyer
If you are based in or around San Jose, you can set up a free 30-minute consultation with one of our domestic violence attorneys here. We believe victims and actively work to create a safer, healthier life for victims and their children.