How to Convince Someone to Leave an Abusive Relationship

Three Methods:Discussing the RelationshipHelping Them CopeTreating the Victim Well

Some intimate relationships turn out to be abusive, where one partner is coercive and controlling toward the other. Abuse can be emotional, financial, sexual or physical and can include threats, isolation, and intimidation. If you see your loved one being abused, here is how to help them stay safe and make things better.

Method 1
Discussing the Relationship

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    Remember that you can't save your loved one. You are not responsible for them, and you cannot take control of their lives. You are not a savior or an expert. However, you can be a supportive presence in their lives.
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    Recognize that the initiative to leave needs to come from the victim. You may wish to sweep the victim away and keep them safe. Unfortunately, it probably won't work. Your loved one may feel powerless, and in order to make a lasting change, they need to empower themselves.
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    Don't criticize the abuser in front of the victim. The victim may view you as an aggressor, and side with their abuser. Hating on the abuser, while thoroughly justified, will only alienate the victim.
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    Briefly ask how your loved one feels when the abuser acts controlling. Your goal isn't to impose an opinion upon them, but to encourage the victim to reflect on how they are being treated.
    • "Are you okay with him monitoring your texts?"
    • "Does it bother you when she does that?"
    • "How do you feel about him talking to you like that?"
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    Express your feelings. Criticizing the abuser directly might alienate the victim, but framing it in terms of your feelings can make it more palatable. This helps your loved one consider the situation through your eyes.
    • "I'm worried about your safety."
    • "It scares me to leave you home alone. I remember the bruises she gave you and I worry you'll get hurt again."
    • "I've never seen you so upset, and it scares me."
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    Don't intervene. Jumping into an abusive dynamic is likely to get you hurt, risks alienating the victim, and probably won't help your loved one in the long run. Only confront the abuser if the victim asks you to, and if you personally feel that you are able to do so safely.

Method 2
Helping Them Cope

The victim may not want to leave right away. Here is how to support them while they are still in the relationship (and while they are recovering).

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    Offer specific help. Your loved one may not be in an emotional place to think about where they could use support. Suggest how you could be helpful—making meals, caring for children, researching their partner's behavior, et cetera.
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    Encourage them to get outside. An abuse victim may become isolated over time, and you can help by inviting them out. Go out together, or invite them to a group thing. Contact with the outside world is helpful to their mental health, and they deserve to go out and have fun.
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    Give them some extra love and attention. Help the victim feel valued and loved. Abuse can hurt or destroy their self-esteem, so you can be helpful by building them up a little.
    • Mention the qualities you like most about them (resilience, wisdom, kindness, etc.).
    • Do activities together (e.g. bowling, painting) that they are good at. Help them feel successful and competent.
    • Ask them for advice about something.
    • Help a woman feel pretty by complimenting her looks or dolling her up.
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    Talk about a safety plan. If your loved one recognizes that there is a problem, you can help them come up with a plan if they feel unsafe. Write it down, or if they feel their abuser will find it, keep it verbal.
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    Suggest that they get expert advice. If your loved one asks for advice, this is a good sign. You can help a little, but you may feel overwhelmed and confused by the enormity of the problem. Don't be afraid to suggest that they see someone who is more qualified.
    • "Jess, I really want to help you, and this is such a difficult situation that I don't really know how. I feel in over my head. Maybe it would help if you looked to someone more qualified for advice. I could help you find someone, and I promise I'll still be here for you."
    • If they say yes, look for a domestic violence expert or therapist (not a couples counselor).
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    Offer options if your loved one expresses fear or a desire to leave. Place them in control—give them options, and let them choose what they feel is best for their situation. The empowerment of choosing will help give them strength to care for themselves.
    • "You sound really scared to go home tonight. Would you like to sleep over at my house?"
    • "Would you like to call an abuse hotline? If you want, I could make the call for you, or I could stay with you while you call. I'd also be okay with going to the next room if you want privacy."
    • "Do you want me to help you find options?"

Method 3
Treating the Victim Well

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    Be patient. Reaching the point where your loved one is ready to leave may take longer than you want it to. Let them move at their own pace without pressure. Work on taking care of yourself and being supportive.
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    Take time to listen to your loved one. They may be facing many difficult and confusing emotions. Spend time with them, allowing them to vent and work through everything.
    • If you're unsure, ask "Are you looking for advice, or do you just want to vent?"
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    Validate their feelings. Abuse stirs up many emotions, not all of which may make sense to you or seem "right." You don't have to understand. Many times, when people talk, they just want to feel that you care. Here are some useful, validating phrases to practice:
    • "That sounds really difficult/frustrating/rough."
    • "I see."
    • "I"m so sorry to hear that."
    • "I'm not surprised to hear that you feel that way, given everything you're going through."
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    Gently talk them out of blaming themselves. They may feel that it's their fault, that they're being ridiculous or irrational, or that they deserve to be abused. Remind them that their feelings are normal and it isn't their fault.
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    Never blame them, judge them, or tell them how to feel. Your loved one is experiencing pain that you cannot understand, and it is belittling to tell them what to do or how to feel. You don't want them to transition from obeying an abuser to obeying you—you want them to gain the autonomy to choose for themselves.
    • "You need to leave them" or "You should get help" are examples of telling them what to do/feel.
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    Respect the victim. Your loved one isn't being treated well, and they might forget that they deserve good treatment. You can help by respecting them and their autonomy, and treating them the way they deserve to be treated. Your kindness will gently remind them that they are worth more.
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    Be in it for the long run. Even after the relationship is over, abuse leaves long-lasting effects. Continue being there for your loved one and helping them face their scars.


  • Research domestic violence for help understanding what is going on. You are no expert, but being informed helps.

Article Info

Categories: Relationship Issues | Domestic Violence