Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What Do You Say If You Wonder . . .?

So -- domestic violence has been in the news this week because of a potential high profile abuser and victim.

While that potential case is "high profile" -- what about the people in our own lives? What if with your friends or family or you see something that you are concerned about? What if you think someone you care about may not be in a safe relationship?

Here is the big difficult question:"What do you say to someone if you are concerned that they may be in an abusive relationship?"

Here is one pretty good way that I've found to talk with someone -- granted this is my style and everyone has a different style, but it goes something like this:"You know I really care a lot about you. I've noticed you haven't been yourself lately, and that (and you would fill in here the other things you've noticed -- like that the person seems afraid of their boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife, has unexplained injuries, seems isolated, etc.). I would rather be wrong or have you mad at me for asking than ever have anything bad happen to you so I just have to check in with you and ask -- are you safe in your relationship?"

Because really, if you think about it, that is the point, isn't it? You WOULD rather be embarrassed or feel uncomfortable asking, or be wrong rather than have something bad happen to a friend of yours and not say something.

And -- so what if your friend tells you that he or she is fine? Then say "Hey, that is great. But if you ever decide you aren't ok, I want you to know my door is always open." And you may also want to add, "And if you were ever concerned that I was not safe, I would hope you would ask me the same question, right?"

Because the point is, if we really have one another's backs, we should be able to ask each other these questions.

And then if you can, you may want to check in again with your family member or friend again in a few weeks just to see how things are going.

People don't always tell you right away when they are in a relationship that is not safe or good for them. It takes time and it is NOT easy.

For help or information anytime, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Or for teens, check out the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline -- on the web at or at 1-866-331-9474.It never hurts to ask -- and it may help change or save the life of someone you care about.

It may seem ironic to talk about this when Valentine's Day is just around the corner. . .but really, it seems like a great time to check in on ourselves and the people we care about. Maybe Valentine's Day is a good reminder to take a look at the health of all our relationships – not just intimate relationships but the ones we have with friends, family, co-workers, and those and those in our communities. It may be an overused saying, but it is important to “be the change we want to see in the world” by modeling healthy relationships wherever and whenever we can.


Matt Brechwald said...

I like your commentary. I frequently get asked for advice on what to tell someone that is experiencing domestic violence, and I think that your "style" is a good one. You always run the risk of losing the friendship when you walk that line, and I think your approach minimizes that risk...nice job.

Domestic Violence Documentary said...

Kim amazing work! I'm writing for a blog launched for an upcoming documentary 'Power and Control Domestic Violence in America.' I would love to link our sites together. We have added you on our list of blogs to follow and would love if you could do the same in order to keep in touch and up to date.

The films website:

Please feel free to contact us anytime.


Anonymous said...

I am just wondering, is having full control by not sharing, compromising or making allowances in a relationship a form of abuse?

Kim Wells said...

Dear Anonymous - without having full details I can say that yes, a consistent pattern of someone controlling a relationship and another person and not making allowances for that person or their wants or needs is a form of abusive behavior.