How to Talk to Victims of Dating Violence
Ask questions that will help her recognize what has happened to her and to identify it as abuse.
Support her courage in asking for help or seeking focus on what she wants, respecting her limits. If she wants to remain in the relationship, don't tell her that's wrong, but tell her you're worried for her safety and help her see the risks. If she wants closeness, help her see the risks, and help her to see whether she's getting that from her partner.
Help her to recognize his excuses for abuse. He (and she) may blame alcohol. Tell her that even though he may have a drinking problem, alcohol doesn't cause him to be violent. Abuse is not being out of control, it is controlling behavior. Help her see that her words and actions do not justify violence. Tell her that jealousy and possessiveness do not equal love.
Reaffirm herself-worth. Her self-esteem may be very low, and she may be solely depending on him for her affirmations. Many batterers isolate their victims to increase their dependence on the batterers. Try to involve her with university activities and other friends.
Relay the message that you are available for nonjudgmental support.
Provide information on dynamics of abuse, typical patterns, and available resources.
- Assume she wants to leave or assume that you know what's best for her. This may make her afraid of disappointing you or angering you. This kind of response will continue to reinforce her role as a victim.
- Ask her what she did to provoke him. This will only reinforce feelings of self-blame and prevent her from expecting him to take responsibility.
- Talk to her and him together. This will make her more fearful of opening up since it places her in the position of having to placate him. Don't talk to him at all without her permission. You may be jeopardizing her safety.
- Take second-hand information.
- Pressure her into making decisions. Remember, she is already under a lot of stress.