RCASA Saturday Prevention: What to do if someone you know is in an abusive relationship

In Awareness Campaigns, Prevention, Sexual Assault Awareness on October 9, 2010 at 10:29 am

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and so, today’s Prevention blog post will focus on what to do if you or a friend is in an abusive or unhealthy relationship.


if you see a red flag, say something!


Are you involved in a dating relationship that is abusive or potentially abusive? Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer “yes” to any of the questions you are potentially in an unhealthy relationship:

  • Is your partner jealous or possessive?
  • Does your partner dislike your friends?
  • Does your partner not let you have friends?
  • Does your partner have a “quick temper”?
  • Does your partner have a rigid idea of gender roles?
  • Does your partner try to control you or make all the decisions?
  • Do you worry about how your partner will react to things you do or say?
  • Do you get a lot of negative verbal teasing from your partner?
  • Are you comfortable with your partner’s “playful” slaps and shoves?
  • Does your partner’s behavior change if he/she drinks or uses drugs?
  • Does your partner pressure you to use alcohol or drugs?
  • Do you feel it is your responsibility to make the relationship work?
  • Are you afraid of what your partner might do if he/she becomes angry?
  • Are you afraid to end the relationship?
  • Do you believe your partner will not accept breaking up?
  • Does your partner blame you when he/she mistreats you?
  • Does your partner threaten to hurt your pets?

You should think ahead about ways to be safe if you are in a dangerous or potentially dangerous relationship. Here are some things to consider in designing your own safety plan.

  • What adults can you tell about the violence and abuse?
  • What people at school can you tell in order to be safe–teachers, principal, counselors, security?
  • Consider changing your school locker or lock.
  • Consider changing your route to/from school.
  • Use a buddy system for going to school, classes and after school activities.
  • What friends can you tell to help you remain safe?
  • If stranded, who could you call for a ride home?
  • Keep a journal describing the abuse.
  • Get rid of or change the number to any beepers, pagers or cell phones.
  • Keep spare change, calling cards, number of the local shelter, number of someone who could help you and restraining orders with you at all times.
  • Where could you go quickly to get away from an abusive person?
  • What other things can you do?

How to Help a Friend Who is in an Abusive Relationship?

  • Talk to your friend and be nonjudgmental when discussing the abuse.
  • Listen to your friend and believe him/her.
  • Let your friend know that violence under any circumstance is unacceptable.
  • Express your understanding, care, concern and support.
  • Point out your friend’s strengths. He or she may not see his or her own abilities and gifts due to the effects of the abuse.
  • Encourage your friend to confide in a trusted adult. Offer to go with him or her for help.
  • Talk to a trusted adult if you believe your friend’s situation is getting worse.
  • Call the police if you witness an assault.
  • Keep educating yourself about dating violence

Things Not to Say or Do

  • Don’t be critical of your friend or his/her partner.
  • Don’t ask blaming questions such as: What did you do to provoke him/her? Why don’t you just break up with him/her?
  • Don’t assume that your friend wants to break up with their partner, or act like you know what is best for them.
  • Don’t pressure your friend to make quick decisions. They need to figure things out at their own pace.
  • Never put yourself in a dangerous situation by being a mediator.

Rappahannock Council against Domestic Violence offers resources, including a 24 hour hotline, 540-373-9373.

The Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-838-8238 v/tty) is a statewide, toll-free, confidential, 24-hour service that provides crisis intervention, support, information, and referrals to victims of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, their friends and families, professionals, and the general public. It is operated by the Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance, Virginia’s coalition of professionals working to end sexual and domestic violence.


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