How to Talk About Violence
Since teens are most likely to go to a friend for help, here’s what you can do:
Express Your Concerns
Tell your friend you are glad they confided in you. Let them know you are sorry this is happening. You can never say the following things too much: I’m worried about you; It’s not your fault; I’m glad you told me about what you’re going through; You deserve better; or I’m here for you.
Try to understand that there are both good and bad times in your friend’s relationship. Don’t become upset if they are not ready to break off the relationship and keep returning to their partner. Hold back from telling them that they are wrong. Help your friend see they are not to blame for the violence and that changing their behavior will not stop the abuse. Tell your friend you are worried about their safety. Let them know you are there for them and will support them in whatever decisions they make.
Reach Out to an Adult for Help
Encourage your friend to find someone to talk to about the abuse. Some suggestions: a domestic violence/sexual assault program, school counselor, teacher, clergy member, or relative. Crisis lines are answered 24 hours a day and you don’t have to give your name. Offer to go with them or to make the first call for them.
Work on a Safety Plan
Help your friend think of ways to increase their safety. Remember, the abuse may temporarily increase if your friend takes steps to end the relationship. Offer to walk with them to and from school or between classes. Encourage them to tell other friends so they can help. Find local resources that can offer additional support.
Support Your Friend’s Strengths
Point out your friend’s strengths. Remember, abusive partners often put down, make fun of, or ridicule their partner to make them feel no one else will like or accept them. Encourage your friend to take time for themselves and spend time with people who support them.
Be There. Listen. And Stay There.
You may feel like a broken record that no one is listening to. Keep supporting your friend. Avoid blaming them so they will know you are standing beside them. If your friend is ready to end the relationship, continue to be supportive and try to get them involved in activities. It takes time to get over the relationship—even one that is violent. Help your friend resist the pressure to get back together.
Understand the Different Types of Abuse
Help your friend recognize that abuse is more than getting shoved against a locker, hit, or slapped. Abuse can be emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual. Let your friend know that abuse happens and hurts more over time and it won’t stop on its own. Let them know that being abused is not their fault—the abuser chooses how to act.
Keep Educating Yourself on Dating Violence
Talk to your local domestic violence/sexual assault crisis program for more information on dating violence. If you are frightened or frustrated, get support for yourself. Remember, you can’t rescue or solve your friend’s problems, but you can offer your support.