Intervening with an Abused Woman
Intervening with an Abused Woman
What is Helpful When Intervening With an Abused Woman

  • Validate her feelings. Let her know that what she is feeling is not "abnormal". Her feelings are normal reaction to a very difficult situation. Any person going through what she is going through would be having similar feelings.
  • Normalize her experiences. Let her know that she is not 'crazy'. Many abused women are told over and over again, by their abusive partners, that they are crazy.
  • Let her know that you believe her. Her abuser may have told her that no one would ever believe her.
  • Let her know that she is not to blame, regardless of what she has been told. Again, abused women are told repeatedly that the abuse is their fault and that they deserve it.
  • Be aware of the community resources that are available to her (i.e. Libra House)
  • Make sure she understands that she does have choices, that there are people out there who can help her and her children.

What is NOT Helpful When Intervening With an Abused Woman

  • Making degrading comments about her partner (i.e. he's no good, he's a bum). Many women who have been abused still love their partners. It is not helpful to put down their partners. Indeed, this may help to convince the woman that she is "not normal".
  • Do not make the comment that the abuser is 'sick'. Abusers are not sick. Relating abuse to mental illness justifies the behavior in her mind, makes her believe that he can't help what he is doing because he is 'sick'. This also removes responsibility from the abuser.
  • Do not show signs of anger, disbelief or disgust. Many abused women believe they are 'crazy'. Showing these signs may confirm this for the woman.
  • Never tell a woman that she should 'get out', 'leave him', 'get rid of him'. Again, many abused women still love their partners. Also, she may be feeling under pressure from the abuser and others to stay in the relationship. So giving her this kind of advice only adds to her confusion and feelings of being under pressure. It is much better to let her know that she does have options and to help her look at what these options are. It is very important for a woman who has been abused to make her own choices even if you don't agree with what those choices might be.

What Can I Do If I Think I Am Being Abused?

  • Recognize and pay attention to the warning signs. Don't underestimate the problem. Pretending the warning signs are not there won't make the behavior change.
  • Tell yourself: "This is not my fault" and remember you are not to blame. No matter what you did or said (or what you were told you did or said) you did not cause the abusive response.
  • Realize that you CAN NOT change anyone else's behavior no matter how much you love that person. You may believe (because you have been told) that if you change things about yourself, the other person will change and things will be better. Please know that abusive people will always find fault. They will always come up with something you did or said that they will say drove them to the abuse. You will continue to be blamed.
  • Abusive behavior is very resistant to change; and generally, long term, consistent change only occurs as a result of counseling. However, counseling doesn't always work. The abusive person must accept that what they are doing is wrong and want to do something about it. If the person only goes for conseling because you ask them to or because they want to get you back into their life, counseling is not likely to be successful.
  • Remember that physical and sexual assault are both crimes and so is threatening to do you harm. You do have the right to give information, which may lead to charges being laid.

Source: Libra House, Shelter for abused women and children
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