One of the most important things that we all can do as human beings is help those who need it. I would hope that this kind of thing would go without saying, but I know that this is not the case sometimes. While we all have the ability to help someone, we can become to afraid or hesitant about it. This can occur for various reasons. However, if you find out someone that you know is in a violent or abusive relationship, you need to find a way to take action.
Love is Respect is an organization the focuses in bringing awareness to dating violence. While they seem to focus a lot on teen dating violence, their website is full of resources for anyone who made need them. You can find the general webpage to help someone else here.
"One in four young people report emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year," Love is Respect reports on their "Get Help for Someone Else" page. Pair this with the previous statistic of one in three teens being in an abusive relationship, and you definitely know someone who has been affected by abuse in some way, shape or form.
It is important that you realize someone may not come to you if they are experiencing an abusive relationship. They may not even know it is abusive. On the same "Get Help" page linked above, there is a list of different warning signs that someone you know may be in an abusive relationship.
Some of these warning signs are: someone's partner calling them names or putting them down in front of other people, if they apologize for their partner's behavior and make excuses for it, you have witnessed fights that escalate to breaking or hitting things, and they have injuries that they cannot explain--or the explanation does not make sense.
There are definitely other warning signs, and sometimes you might just notice that they have a black eye and ask about it. While it does not seem that people are typically upfront about an abusive situation (whether that be because they are frightened or unsure if it is abuse), some people might tell you upfront. Just do not expect it.
If you are afraid that your friend is in an abusive relationship, remember that they may not be welcome to help at first. It is a scary thing to go through, and they may have been told that it is their fault.
Do not be afraid to talk to your friend. Communication with them is so important and it is vital that you listen to them if they are open to speaking to you. If they do not want to talk about it, just remind them that you are a resource if they need you and keep watching.
If they want to talk about it and are open to getting help, develop a safety plan.
What if your friend is the abuser?
Love is respect has a section dedicated to this on the page. They remind us that while it can be difficult to talk to the friend about it, you cannot stay silent. This will not fix any problem. Remember to talk to them, and make sure they know that it is not the victim's fault that they are being abusive towards them.
There are highly unfortunate situations where you, the child, are watching one of your parents be in an abusive relationships (especially where the person who is abusive is one of your parents). Remember that it is not your fault, and make sure that the victim knows you love and support them. Love is Respect suggests that you inform the victim that they can contact that National Domestic Violence Hotline.
It is important that you do not mind your own business here. If the situation is safe enough, try to strike up a conversation or ask for notes from class if it is someone at school. If at all possible, try and talk to the victim alone. This can make it safer for both parties involved. If it is not safe, stand by and keep watch. You have every right to call 911 if you feel that the victim is in danger.
To the parents reading this: your child may not tell you directly if they are in an unsafe relationship. You need to have a basic awareness of warning signs of abuse. You are a key player in keeping them safe during this time. Signs could be your child being depressed/anxious, they change their behavior or personal appearance and your child spending less time with family and friends. There are more warning signs, but these are just a few. It is important that you show concern, listen and give support, along with accepting what your child is telling you.
There are a lot of things that can happen in a relationship, some of which we may never be aware of if we are not in it. However, the warning signs are there and it is our job as friends, neighbors, family members and community members to keep our eyes open for things that this that happen.
We can make a change and help people, but we have to be educated first.