How to Help a Friend

Become Informed

Find out all of the facts you can about domestic violence. Call the local program in your area, the Family Resource Center, that assists victims and their children at 540-483-5088. You can also call the Statewide toll-free Virginia Family Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-838-8238.

The following is a good book to get you started: "When Love Goes Wrong: What to Do When You Can't Do Anything Right" by Ann Jones and Susan Schechter (Order on Amazon).

Lend Your Friend an Ear

Letting your friend know that you care and are willing to listen may be the best help you can offer. Don't force the issue, but allow her/him to confide in you at their own pace. Never blame them for what's happening. Remember that your friend must make her/his own decision about their life. Focus on support in the decision they make as their own.

Share Community Services with Your Friend

When your friend asks for advice on what to do, share the information you've gathered with them privately. Encourage them to seek help from a local domestic violence program. Many victims will first talk to marriage counselors, psychiatrists, or members of the clergy. However, not all professionals can provide the help needed by victims.

Focus on Your Friend's Strength

Victims live with verbal as well as physical abuse. Your friend is probably told over and over by the abuser that they are a bad person, a bad spouse, or a bad parent. Without positive feedback from outside the home, your friend may begin to think that they can't do anything right and that something is wrong with them.

Give your friend the emotional support she/he needs to believe that they are a good person. Help them examine their strengths and skills. Emphasize them; they deserve a life that is free from violence.

If Your Friend Decides to Leave

Help your friend make a plan to be safe. She/he may want to call a local domestic violence hotline or program. These agencies can help your friend look at all options. If they decide to leave, a domestic violence emergency shelter may be the safest place for them to go. Sometimes a local shelter may not be the safest place; your friend may need to work with their local domestic violence program to make plans for relocation in another county or state.