NELDON: How to help: Friends and family of domestic violence victims

Throughout Victims’ Rights Week this week, our editorial team has taken a closer look at how domestic violence impacts Berrien and Cass counties.

As with all grave topics, our natural reaction to these tragic situations as humans tends to be, “it doesn’t happen here.” Unfortunately, as we learned while investigating domestic violence, the problem does indeed happen here — and it happens often.

As an outsider looking in — especially one who has never been victimized by a loved one or roommate — it may be difficult or frustrating to understand the situation from a victim’s perspective. You may want to help, but not know how. The National Domestic Violence Hotline (found at thehotline.org) advises the following for those who know someone experiencing domestic violence:

“Acknowledge that they are in a very difficult and scary situation, be supportive and listen.

Let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Reassure them that they are not alone and that there is help and support out there. It may be difficult for them to talk about the abuse. Let them know that you are available to help whenever they may need it. What they need most is someone who will believe and listen.

“Be non-judgemental.

Respect your friend or family member’s decisions. There are many reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships. They may leave and return to the relationship many times. Do not criticize their decisions or try to guilt them. They will need your support even more during those times.

“If they end the relationship, continue to be supportive of them.

Even though the relationship was abusive, your friend or family member may still feel sad and lonely once it is over. They will need time to mourn the loss of the relationship and will especially need your support at that time.

“Encourage them to participate in activities outside of the relationship with friends and family.

Support is critical and the more they feel supported by people who care for them, the easier it will be for them to take the steps necessary to get and stay safe away from their abusive partner. Remember that you can call the hotline to find local support groups and information on staying safe.

“Remember that you cannot “rescue” them.

Although it is difficult to see someone you care about get hurt, ultimately they are the one who has to make the decisions about what they want to do. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide, and help them find a way to safety and peace.”

Additionally, The Hotline advises that both victims and friends or family members of victims reach out to local resources. Southwest Michigan’s Domestic and Sexual Abuse Services (DASAS) has a 24-hour hotline that can be reached at 1-800-828-2023.

As disappointing and staggering as the statistics are here in Cass and Berrien counties, domestic violence is not an undefeatable dilemma. With help and support, those in hostile home situations can overcome the violence and continue living healthy, happy lives.

Ambrosia Neldon is the general manager at Leader Publications. She can be reached by phone at (269) 687-7700 or by email at ambrosia.neldon@leaderpub.com

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