Ways to Support Victims of Domestic Violence

Globally, 1 out of 3, or 35% women, have experienced physical or sexual violence from their partners, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Domestic violence has a serious impact on the mental and reproductive health of women. Being cooped up at home for months now, due to the coronavirus pandemic, reports of violence against women and LGBTQ individuals are rising. In fact, the Chicago Police Department said that abuse-related calls have increased by 12% during the national isolation.

If you or someone you know is facing any form of violence at home, here are a few effective ways help them.

Seek Counseling

Professional help from an experience therapist can go a long way to heal emotional wounds. A marriage can often be the opposite of a fairy tale, which is where psychotherapy can be beneficial. It helps you be honest about your feelings in a safe, supportive and non-judgmental space and explore solutions, says leading psychotherapist, Linda Charnes. The right support can help you protect yourself against abuse and learn helpful means to cope with the consequences of violence.

Identify the Signs

Certain hand gestures, like the thumb tucked in the palm when the fist is closed, can at times reflect domestic violence. Therefore, pay attention while someone is trying to alert you. If you see behavioral changes, like anxiety, low self-esteem or self-doubt, look closer for physical signs. These can include red/purple bruises and shortness of breath. Once sure, recommend psychotherapy or extend your help and support.

Validate Their Feelings

Each year, 275 million children face the effects of domestic violence and are victims of behavioral and psychological problems, according to an article by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Men too are subjected to violence, but the large majority consists of women. Whoever it is, validate them when they express guilt, anger, despair or fear. Tell them that the emotions are normal and that you are there to support them to safety.

Establish a Safety Plan

Create a plan that can be carried out the next time violence occurs. Welcome them to take shelter at your home, if possible, before they are completely broken or battered. Provide them with emergency anti-abuse hotlines to seek legal help. Agree on code words to alarm neighbors or family members. Help them prepare an escape bag with all the essentials. However, ensure that none of this provokes the abuser.

Domestic abuse is not something that should be accepted. Express your concern for the victim and ask if you can help in any way. However, even if you wish to rescue them, let them make the final decision.

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