How to Help Your Friend Who Is Being Abused

Three Parts:Approaching Your FriendEstablishing a Safety PlanEnding the Abuse

If your friend is being abused, you may feel as though leaving is a simple decision, but for many that have experienced it, leaving can be difficult and even dangerous. Make sure that your friend knows you are them to support them and help them to determine what they can do in order to stop or escape any further abuse. If your friend is a child that is being abused by a parent or teacher, inform another adult immediately, but if your friend is an adult, it’s important that you give them the power to make the change necessary to end their abuse.

Part 1
Approaching Your Friend

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    Set up a time to talk. It’s important that you establish a time and place where you can speak to your friend without fear of anyone overhearing your conversation. Your friend may be embarrassed of the situation, or worse, you could put your friend in danger by having the conversation where the abuser may overhear.[1]
    • Tell your friend that you would like to set some time aside to speak one on one and in private. Let him or her know that it’s important.
    • Choose a time and place that provides safety, privacy, and in which you won’t have to cut your conversation short because of other obligations.
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    Make it clear that you are there because you are concerned. Tell your friend that you are worried about their wellbeing, and that you are speaking to them because you care deeply about them. It may come as a shock that people have noticed what they are going through, and they may initially respond by being dismissive of your concerns. It’s important that you let them know that you want to help.[2]
    • Let them know that you are there to help, and that you care about them.
    • Explain that what they are going through isn’t right and that they should not be treated in an abusive manner.
    • Listen to them when they speak and remain calm to avoid making your friend feel as though they are cornered.
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    Emphasize that your friend is not at fault. Embarrassment is a common reaction among people who have experienced abuse. Many feel as though the abuse is the result of their own shortcomings or failures. Make it clear that they did nothing to deserve being hurt or abused and avoid saying things that could lead them to believe you are judging them like, “why would you let this happen?”[3]
    • Tell your friend that no matter what they do, they do not deserve to suffer abuse.
    • Emphasize how important their safety is to you and let them know that they can trust you to keep what you talk about between the two of you.
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    Explain your concerns. Your friend may not believe that they are in an abusive relationship, so you may need to explain what you’ve seen and how you perceive it as inappropriate. Be honest without being argumentative.[4]
    • Explain what has led you to meeting with them like this and how your concerns are making you feel.
    • Let him or her know that domestic abuse tends to escalate over time and things may get worse.
    • Emphasize that you are there to support them no matter what, but that you’d like to help them get out of the abusive situation.
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    Provide your friend with information on local resources. After you discuss what has been going on, give your friend the contact information or pamphlets from local shelters or outreach programs that may be able to provide them with guidance or resources.[5]
    • You can find a list of resources for victims and survivors of abuse at
    • offers a list of shelters throughout the country people can stay in when leaving abusive relationships or homes.
    • Centers.Rainn.Org can provide you with a list by state or zip code of organizations that can help in cases of rape, abuse or incest.
    • Do some internet research for local organizations that can help as well.
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    Seek help with your friend. Depending on your age and situation, you may not be certain about who you can go to for help. If you are minors, speak to a teacher, a coach or someone you trust at your school. If you are adults, it may be up to you and your friend to make a plan to get out of the abusive situation.[6]
    • If your friend is physically abused, contact law enforcement regardless of your age. Police officers often cannot do anything unless responding to active situation, but do not wait for the abuser to hurt your friend to get help.
    • Adults may seek support from others that can give them guidance and help them make the transition away from an abusive relationship. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help. Call them at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

Part 2
Establishing a Safety Plan

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    Determine what type of plan to help your friend establish. A safety plan is a personalized, step by step plan that lays out how to stay safe while remaining in a relationship with an abuser or leaving one. The safety plan should be unique to the person it is created for and should address each of the steps your friend needs to take in order to stop the abuse safely.[7]
    • You will need to address things like where your friend will live if leaving the abuser, as well as how to overcome financial hardships created by the transition.
    • Children also need to be accounted for in the safety plan if your friend is a parent.
    • It’s important to outline even obvious seeming things because it can be easy to forget steps when upset.
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    Assess the level of risk your friend is in. You need to determine if your friend needs to escape the situation or relationship with the abuser, or if it is a situation that can be managed. If your friend is being abused, it is likely that they will need to leave, but even leaving requires a level of planning based on you and your friend’s assessment of the danger levels.[8]
    • Determine if your friend wants to leave or if they feel the situation can be changed from within.
    • Decide if your friend will be able to leave safely, or if they will need to sneak out in order to leave without being hurt.
    • Assess how much danger the person will be in if they remain where they are. Is there a risk that your friend could be hurt if they stay?
    • Violence should never be tolerated. Any amount of violence can dictate that the risk is too great to stay.
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    Help your friend plan to leave if necessary. If your friend determines it would be best to leave their home, you will need to establish a plan to do so safely. Getting your friend and any children that may be in danger out of the home is the first priority.[9]
    • Plan for a time and date that your friend will be able to leave without arousing suspicion from the abuser if they need to leave secretly.
    • Establish transportation if your friend needs it so they do not rely on the abuser to get them where they need to go.
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    Incorporate children in your plan. Children can often tell when something is going on, and it’s important to plan for their involvement. Discuss the pros and cons of informing children about any portion of the plan as well as the logistics of getting them somewhere safe.[10]
    • It can be dangerous to tell children before executing the plan, because they may accidentally inform your friend’s abuser.
    • Plan for a safe place for the children to stay once they are out of the house.
    • Make sure your friend knows to explain what is happening to the children in a way that emphasizes that it is not their fault and that they are loved.
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    Identify a safe place to stay after leaving. Your friend may ask to stay with you, or they may have other family or friends that they can stay with. There are also many shelters that exist solely to aid abuse victims escape their abusers. It's important that you consider what the abuser may do when your friend leaves. It may not be safe to stay somewhere that the abuser can easily find them.
    • Tell your friend about local shelters or organizations you found when researching them on the internet.
    • Offer suggestions for safe places for your friend to stay.
    • Use websites like to find a shelter for your friend nearby.
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    Plan for emotional distress after your friend leaves. Once your friend leaves their abuser, there will be emotionally fallout. If they were in a romantic relationship, ending it can be emotionally very difficult. Any time someone experiences a significant change in their lives, stress plays a part, but that may be even more significant when leaving an abuser.[11]
    • Help your friend seek the support of others through support groups or incorporating other friends if they are comfortable with it.
    • Remind your friend that they are not at fault, and that they have great value as a person and a friend.
    • Help your friend be kind to themselves by discouraging remarks that are self-deprecating.

Part 3
Ending the Abuse

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    If your friend is a child, speak to an adult. If your friend is a child, it is imperative that you speak to an adult soon to help your friend escape an abusive situation. It can be difficult for children to identify abuse at the hands of their parents or teachers, but other adults can help.
    • Tell a teacher if you believe your friend is being abused by their parents at home.
    • Let your friend know that their parents should not be hurting them, and that there is help available.
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    Encourage them to execute their safety plan and end the relationship. You cannot make the decision for your friend to leave; they must do it themselves. As much as you may believe it’s the right thing, forcing the issue may make your friend stop speaking to you. Instead, explain how important it is to you that your friend leave the abuser.[12]
    • Describe how worried you are about your friend and what you fear may happen if they don’t leave.
    • Encourage your friend to have faith in themselves and to seek a better life.
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    Consider involving law enforcement. You may need to contact the police if you or your friend feel that they may be in danger. The police cannot solve the problem for your friend, but they can provide a safe way for your friend to leave.[13]
    • Your friend may be uncomfortable discussing the abuse with the police, so you may need to encourage them to do so.
    • Domestic violence is a crime, and the abuser may be arrested and charged if there is evidence of the abuse at the time they are called.
    • If you witness an assault yourself, call the police and inform of them of what is happening. Do not attempted to intervene yourself.
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    Offer your help in making the change. Your support may provide your friend with the strength they need to escape an abuser. Make sure they know that you will help any way that you can and that you are there for them. If there are specific things you can do to help them escape an abuser, offer them to your friend.
    • Offer to help with child care if your friend needs someone to watch their children.
    • Offer a place to stay until your friend can get back on their own feet.
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    Encourage your friend to stay strong. Making such a dramatic life change can be daunting and traumatic, but it’s important to keep reminding your friend that it’s for the best in the long run. No one deserves to be abused, and while ending the abuse may be difficult, it’s better than continuing to suffer.
    • Make sure your friend knows that you will be their friend no matter what happens, and that you only want what is best for them.
    • Be there for your friend as they experience the emotional ups and downs of ending the relationship and moving on. Sometimes, just having the support of a close friend can keep an abuse victim from returning to their abuser.
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    Give your friend space, but don't give up on them. Your friend may feel embarrassed or angry at you for approaching them about an abusive situation. Don't resort to anger in response. Take a step back and give your friend time to cool off, but don't give up on helping them find help.
    • It can be hard to hear reason when tempers flare. Give your friend some time, then reach out to them to see if they're willing to talk.
    • Make sure you let your friend know that your care about them deeply and are only looking to help.
    • You may have to give them some time before they are willing to speak to you, but helping your friend is worth the effort.


  • Be patient. It may take a long time for your friend to be willing to seek help, so don't try to rush them.
  • Remember that it's not up to you to "save" your friend from the abuse. Your friend has to make their own decisions; you're just there to support them and point them to people that can help.
  • Encourage your friend to develop a safety plan, which will help them prepare to leave the abusive situation.


  • Don't force your friend to do anything. You can encourage your friend to seek help or leave the abusive situation, but ultimately the decision must be up to them, and forcing them to do anything before they're ready could just push them away from you and make them feel even more powerless.

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Categories: Supporting Friends | Abuse