As a family member or trusted friend, do not be surprised if your loved one does not reach out to you for help. The survivor may feel ashamed, afraid, or even that she would be putting you in harm’s way if she told you about the abuse. Immense fear of physical violence or even death is often associated with being a victim of violence and that fear can keep someone from asking for help. She also may fear she will be told she should leave the relationship when she knows doing so most likely would increase the violence and put her life in jeopardy. It is important for family and trusted friends to remember that the person experiencing violence by an intimate partner is the expert in her own life and only she knows if and when it is safe for her to seek help.
For those who want to help, you can do the following:
- Let the survivor know she is not alone and you are there to listen if/when she wants to talk.
- Let her know there are services available to her.
- If she talks to you about the abuse, let the survivor know you will keep a safety bag for her is she chooses to create one. Items for a safety bag may include identification papers/cards, keys, cell phone, bank statements, money, medicine, pictures of the family that include the abuser, proof of income, financial statements, visas, passports, green cards, insurance documents, birth certificates for you and your children, the abuser’s personal information including date of birth, social security number, place of employment and license plate number.
- If she talks to you about the abuse, let the survivor know you are willing to set up a code word or signal for when she may need you to call the authorities for help.
- Familiarize yourself with the services at the local certified domestic violence center in your area and inform her about the services.
- Tell her the abuse is not her fault, that she does not cause it and she is not to blame.
If you need immediate help, see the map below to locate the certified domestic violence center nearest you. By calling local 24/7 hotline number or the toll-free statewide hotline, 1-800-500-1119, you will be given information about domestic violence, safety planning, resources and referrals as well as emotional support. All of Florida’s certified domestic violence centers provide personal advocacy, shelter, safety planning, legal advocacy, children’s programs and information and referrals. All services are confidential.