Thursday, September 06, 2007

How Do You Ask "Are you a victim of domestic violence?"

I was taping a local television spot earlier this week to discuss It’s Time to Talk Day activities in our community and talk about domestic violence and healthy relationships in general. The host of the show asked a very good question -- about the awkwardness of asking someone you care about if they are a victim of domestic violence. He was wondering exactly how you get that conversation started, anyway?

I know I have written about that before in this blog, but because he found our discussion so helpful, I thought I should write about it again.

For me, it really helps to say something like this: "You know I really care about you, and I would rather be wrong than ever have anything bad happen to you. I have noticed lately that you are keeping to yourself more than usual, you seem to be afraid of your partner, you seem to have a lot of injuries which don't make a lot of sense when you explain them, _________________ (whatever the things are you have noticed that you are concerned about). So --because I care, I just need to check in with you and ask you -- are you safe in your relationship?"

I think the "keys" for me are the fact that:

1) I WOULD rather be wrong than have something bad happen to someone I care about. I would rather be embarrassed and say the wrong thing than not say anything.

2) I am asking if the person is safe -- I am not making a judgement about the person they are in a relationship with --

So -- what if my friend says "Are you crazy? I am fine!" I end up saying something like this: "I am so glad you are fine. But if things are ever not fine, I want you to know you can come to me. And I hope that if the situation was reversed and you had concerns for me in my relationship, you would ask me if I was safe because I know you care that much about me."

And -- if you friend ends up saying you are right and he or she is NOT safe? Then offer to help them find the resources in the community that can assist. Do not feel you have to take the burden on yourself -- that is not your job. Support and caring as a friend IS your job-- but helping a person deal with the specifics of a domestic violence relationship (especially if they are choosing to leave) is really best done by those in the field with a lot of experience.

It is also REALLY important to understand there is a difference between being safe and leaving a situation. Sometimes it is not safe to leave. Please do not try to make those decisions for your friend.

You can always call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) for information about services in your area.

If you just read this, thank you. If you ever decide to use what you read, thank you even more.


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