If you know or suspect someone you care about is being abused, urge them to seek professional help. Be a person of support for that individual. All too often people ignore the signs of abuse and in a sense, they end up passively accepting the abuse by not communicating what they see to the individual that is being abused. Educating a person about their options without being judgmental, preachy, or overbearing can make a huge impact. I know several people who might still be in an abusive relationship had their family and friends not intervened. It is important to understand that there are varying stages of change that occur. In other words, some people are not ready for change, some may be thinking about change, and others are ready to act on change. The stage a person is in will dictate how receptive they are to hearing your thoughts on their relationship, as well as how open they are to receiving help. As a friend it is your duty to have the difficult conversation. Plant the seeds for change and educate your friend or family member about their options (no matter what stage they’re in). A common hurdle many people in abusive relationships experience is feeling trapped, whether perceived or real. A trick is to ask the person if it’s okay for you to tell them about some options you’ve learned about (this gives the person who’s experiencing the abuse, control of the situation) and this disarms defenses so that the information is wanted vs. planted on them (just think less resistance).
If you are abusing someone, there are DV groups that can help. Many people feel guilt, shame, and sadness after they’ve hurt someone. These emotions can then increase stress, which sets you up to react with more anger in the future. It’s this cycle that you can break by changing your behavior, but you need professional assistance in doing this. Anger management groups and individual therapy are great places to start, but in my experience I have found that people really benefit from groups specifically designed for DV abusers groups that address the elements of DV. Domestic violence hotlines can help you receive help as well and get you connected to these groups/individual therapy. You can change the dysfunctional behavior by learning new ways to cope with anger. Be open to change and remember as you take a risk by receiving support, you will be helping yourself and the people you around you.
In the state of California as well as many others, laws protecting the victims of domestic violence are not limited to heterosexual relationships. The police and judicial system have the capability and the responsibility to protect victims as well as prosecute abusers. If you find yourself in immediate physical danger at the hands of an abuser, call 911. There is simply no excuse for domestic violence.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope that it was informative and can help motivate change. If you want to learn more about the patterns of DV stay tuned to my blog, as I’ll be addressing the cycle of violence.