Help your Friend, Teen, or Child
How to Help a Friend
- Listen without judging. Your friend may already feel embarrassed or responsible for the abuse. Keep the lines of communication open and build trust.
- Let her know the abuse is not her fault. There is never an excuse for physical abuse, not drugs or alcohol, not a bad day at work, not stress. It’s not acceptable, and no one deserves to be treated that way.
- Tell her that this is a common problem, probably much more common than she realizes. This happens to women from all different backgrounds; any woman can be vulnerable. It is rare that the situation will improve without outside help; most likely it will get worse. It’s OK to reach out for help -- it’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength.
- Domestic Violence is a crime. If she has been hit or physically assaulted in any way, she has the option to report the incidents to the police. They can be reported to the law enforcement agency in the city where the crime occurred, or to the Sheriff’s Department for those incidents taking place outside the city limits. There are advocates who can support her if she makes the decision to report.
- Talk about having a Safety Plan in place in case of an emergency. She may want to keep money, important documents, a change of clothes, and an extra set of keys in a safe place.
- You can suggest she talk to someone at NEWS if she’s concerned about financial or legal issues, housing, safety, or has any other questions or concerns.
- Recommend that your friend look at information on the internet like endabuse.org, which can help her evaluate the seriousness of her situation.
Help Your Teen
Unfortunately, teen dating violence is extremely common. As a parent, you may be concerned about behavior or signs you have observed which may indicate this could be happening to your child. Teens often spend much of their time communicating on-line, and there can be abusive communication happening through technology as well as in-person. Threatening emails, constant texting, offensive chat room or social network postings, and monitoring by cell phone are forms of abuse if they are unwanted or unwelcome.
Some warning signs:
- Isolation from friends and family
- Personality changes
- Change in grades
- Emotional outbursts
- Abuse of drugs and alcohol
- Unexplained injuries or bruises
- Giving up an activity they love (chorus, sports, clubs, etc.)
The behaviors listed above are possible indicators which may be a result of an abusive relationship. There could be other causes for these behaviors, but these concerns should not be ignored. Trust your instincts.
Having a conversation with your teen about these concerns can be delicate. Be aware of the timing of the conversation -- try to find a time when things are calm and you can have uninterrupted privacy.
You may want to start with “I” statements, such as, “I have noticed that you seem to have stopped hanging out with some of your friends. Is everything OK?” or “ I’m concerned about your safety, I’ve heard you fighting with your boyfriend on the phone, can I help?”
It helps to have specific examples of things that concern you. It is very important that you are not judgmental or overly critical of your teen, your objective is to help them, not to place blame.
Be a good role model with your own supportive, healthy relationships, and model the behavior you want them to repeat. Conflict is normal in relationships – if possible, demonstrate and give examples of constructive conflict resolution. You can guide your child to a web site which is specifically designed for teens: loveisrespect.org.
If you learn that your teen has been physically abused you can consider getting a restraining order on their behalf or contacting law enforcement. If possible, you should try to guide them towards good decisions rather than forcing them to do something that they’ll resent. However, their safety is the most important consideration.
You can always contact our 24-hour crisis line 255-NEWS to talk through your concerns. We’re here to help.
Help Your Child
For children who are exposed to abusive situations at home, even as infants, the effects can be serious and long lasting. They may experience difficulty concentrating and learning in school, have trouble with interpersonal relationships, and suffer from low self-esteem.
When a child’s environment is uncertain -- or scary -- the effects can carry over into problems such as teenaged drug abuse, pregnancy, and/or abusive relationships. When kids have heard one parent being verbally or physically abused, they may think it was somehow their fault, or may feel frightened and helpless to protect themselves or their parent. When one parent is abusing the other, there is always the fear (and the very real possibility) that it could happen to them.
NEWS offers support groups for non-offending mothers and their children.
- These groups are designed to help children understand that it wasn’t their fault.
- Kids learn that they’re not alone and that they have a safe place to talk about their fears and frustrations.
- We work to rebuild self-esteem and help children learn ways to keep themselves safe.
- NEWS offers other resources for kids as well as counseling services.
- We can guide you to community organizations which offer other services such parenting classes, etc.
For information about ways you can help if your child has been exposed to violence at home, call our 24-hour number at 255-NEWS (6397).
What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other? -- George Eliot