If someone you know is a victim of domestic or sexual violence and you are prepared to help that person, that is certainly a good thing. This can be anyone - someone in your circle of acquaintances, in your family, or at work. Moreover, it is possible that you are the only person in whom the victim might confide in anticipation of your support. If you suspect this is the case but you are not certain, be very careful and sensitive when you explore this topic with that person. For victims of domestic and sexual violence, the reactions of those around them - their acquaintances, family members and friends - are very important and play a significant role in the process of dealing with these events. It is important to do your best to understand how the victim is internally experiencing the entire matter.
Do not forget, however, that for you, as someone close to the victim, coping with the fact that such a wrong has been committed against someone close to you is difficult. The aid of professionals is offered to you, too.
What to do
- If you know someone who has become a vicitm of domestic or sexual violence, and you want to aid that person, you should show that person your interest - and then respect that person’s choices and wishes.
- Listen impartially and sympathetically - do not show the victim any signs of denial, doubt, prejudice, remorse or trivialization of their experience.
- You can express your own advice or opinion, but only if you sense the victim wants to hear it.
- Do not force the victim to do anything. Aid the victim with getting oriented in the situation and leave all decisions to the victim.
- Whether the victim decides to report the crime to police or not, or whether the victim decides to leave a violent partner or not, express understanding for whichever decision is made.
- Offer to accompany the victim to seek aid from professionals or to contact such professionals.
- Sometimes it is good to mention to the victim that services are provided in such cases free of charge, on the basis of anonymity, that they are provided with sensitivity, and that the providers of such services are legally obliged to maintain confidentiality. No information about clients will ever be communicated to third parties.
What you should never do
- It is important not to harm the victim again through insensitive behavior. Such behavior mainly involves doubting the victim’s feelings, belittling the victim’s trauma, asking inappropriate questions, reproaching the victim, making light of the entire situation, etc.
- It is not appropriate to force a victim to take any steps. It is also not appropriate to take steps without the victim being aware of them.
- Avoid constantly giving well-intentioned advice or offers of aid. Avoid repeating such advice or offers in a very vigorous way - doing so can make the victim feel incapacitated.
- Last but not least, whatever happens, do not blame yourself. Do not tell yourself that you might have prevented something, or that there is something you should have done differently. That is not true.
- Never say the following things to a victim:
“Forget about it already!”
“Why didn’t you defend yourself?”
“Why did you go there?
“What happened wasn’t so bad, it could have been worse!”
Would you like to aid your loved one with a complicated situation - but you don’t know how?
Get advice from professionals.