Things That You Should Say to a Survivor of Domestic Violence
- You don’t deserve to be treated like that.
- You deserve to feel safe in your home/neighborhood.
- What do you want to do?
- What would be helpful today?
- Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me what’s going on for your family.
- It is not your fault.
- There is nothing you did to “make” him/her hit you.
- There’s help available.
- It takes a lot of courage to talk about this.
- It must be a full time job to keep yourself and your children safe.
Things you might think, but SHOULD NOT say to a victim of domestic violence!
- You should leave him/her.
Empower her! Most likely her husband has been telling her what to do—don’t fall into the same trap. Also, leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim. Leaving is not just about packing a bag. Safety is the number one concern.
- What about your children?
Many women/men are aware that their children are witnessing the violence in the home. At times this might be what motivates them to make a change. But on the other hand, this question could make them feel even worse about not being able to protect their children. You are also blaming the victim. It’s okay to inquire, but phrase it carefully.
- Let’s get you into a shelter.
Women in domestic violence relationships do not need to be told what to do. Trust in her that she is the expert in her own life. Ask her if she wants to go into shelter- don’t ever assume. Our hope is that she will learn to trust her decision-making capability again. She probably hasn’t made decisions for herself in a long time. *There are no domestic violence shelters for men in the Philadelphia area.
- At least it’s not physical.
What we have heard time and time again from women/men is that the scars heal but it is the emotional/verbal abuse that is never forgotten. Also, don’t assume that because it’s not physical it’s not serious.
- You’re stronger than that.
This is not about strength, it’s about power and control.
- Why don’t you just divorce him?
Take into consideration cultural, religious, and financial backgrounds. Divorce may not be an option. Or it may mean a lot more than just signing a piece of paper. He or she may be kicked out of their faith/family. Also, it may not seem financially feasible for her to be out on her own.
- I would leave if I were you.
Don’t ever assume that. None of these women thought they would be in this situation either.
- I can’t believe you went back to him.
Keep supporting this person. Come back to the thought that she/he knows her/his life better than you do and knows when the time is right.
- Why is he/she like this? What are you doing that makes him/her so angry?
The one absolute in this is that you can’t control the abuser’s behavior. It is not the victim’s fault that he is acting like this.
- Women/men who get into these relationships are so helpless.
They are not helpless. They just need some support for the decisions they want to make. Give survivors a chance to make their own decisions.