Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Domestic Violence and the Holidays - What Do You Say?

The holidays are coming and you will be around family and friends that you may not usually see. And what if 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 -- for example, 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 assistance anytime (or just to check things out), call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or check out Or for those in dating relationships, check out the National 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.

(And survivors....any comments or additional suggestions you have are most welcome! You know best what is helpful!)


Anonymous said...

what do you do when you know there has been violence in the past, and the person now denies it? My family member is in an abusive relationship that she often tries to hide because I (and others) do ask. Her boyfriend has even made threats towards me for "butting in." he isolates her, humiliates, demeans, hurts, lies... and he's even been in jail and plead guilty. Yest, they are together and she says she loves him. I can't kidnap her! I cry about it so much. She is only 20, I worry about how this will effect her for the rest of her life and worry about how violent he can get.

Kim Wells said...

Anonymous - Thank you so much for your courage in sharing your situation. Please keep the door open even when it is hard and heartbreaking. You never know when your family member may reach out. It is important to remember that it takes a survivor of abuse an average of 5-7 times to leave...because leaving can be very dangerous. So safety is the important issue - and knowing she has a safe place where the door is open is what is most important for her. If you need to talk over anything anytime, you can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline - they are there for family members who care as well. Their number is 1-800-799-SAFE. Thank you for caring - and thank you for keeping your heart open.

Kevin W. Grossman said...

Speak up, because the abusers and the victims won't. No one's asking you to be a superhero and stop the violence single-handedly, but be the awareness and be safe force to be reckoned with. Use the resources that Kim points out all the time and that are readily available.

Lovern said...

So true Kevin...the more aware victims are of the resources available, the more equipped they will be to leave once they gotten to their breaking point and can't take it anymore.
Share the DV Hotline info, provide her with HopeLine from Verizon Wireless info and continue to be supportive.

Kim Wells said...

Lovern - Thank you for your comments. It is so important to be ready to give resources to those around us anytime. 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) in the US 24 hours a day. And #HOPE from any Verizon Wireless phone. (I am not sure if other wireless carriers do this or not?)