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If you are looking for information on family violence please click here. For some basic principles of support see the section on supporting a friend who has experienced relationship violence.
This page is intended to be an introduction to some of the important things to keep in mind while supporting a friend who has experienced or is experiencing family violence.
Davis, L. (1991). Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child. New York: HarperCollins.
Remain supportive and open to them. If it becomes too much for you to handle, it's ok to set boundaries and/or refer them to resources (at the bottom of this page).
Because we are in college, the effects of family violence might not be immediately evident. Often, conversations around family violence will come up only if the person chooses to talk about it or if they get triggered. Just as with relationship violence, some people do not identify their experiences with their family as abusive. Below are some things that may be helpful to say if a friend approaches and tells you about something a family member said or did. There are also some things which may not be helpful.
Helpful things to say:
Reflect back what they say to make sure you are understanding it.
Validate their feelings.
Give them choice in the relationship.
Validate. A lot of people who have experienced violence question whether what happened to them was real, wrong, or actually abusive.
While, yes, this may sound like the easiest solution, it is much more complicated than this. Abuse does not stop feelings of love. Remember, they are still their only family.
So much easier said than done.
While it is a nice thing to say, replacing family has to be the person's choice. This type of comment is often based off of the presumption that the person would choose to shut out their family. It also invalidates any feelings of love they may have towards their family.
*Remember, you don't have to say something profound. Just be open. Give them choices and give them the opportunity to tell you. Express your concern and show them that you care. Also, you can contact RISE to help you develop a plan to talk to your friend.
Helpmate (Asheville Domestic Violence Center)
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)