How to Help a Friend With a Violent Spouse

Three Parts:Talking to Your FriendHelping Your Friend Make a Safety PlanDoing What You Can

Your friend might have hinted at a spouse's violent temper, or have told you candidly about being abused. Perhaps you witnessed injuries on your friend, or perhaps you saw the friend's spouse behaving violently with your friend, someone else, or with an animal or inanimate object. If you have any reason to believe that your friend is married to someone who may do them harm, you can help by expressing concern, listening, offering support, helping create a plan and, in some cases, contacting the proper authorities.

Part 1
Talking to Your Friend

  1. Image titled Deal with Domestic Violence Step 6
    Don't hesitate to speak up. If you know or have reason to believe that your friend's spouse is violent, staying silent is the last thing you should do. Ask your friend to speak to you in private. If it is hard to get your friend alone, make up an excuse that will get them alone with you and away from their spouse.[1]
    • Speak to them directly, using "I" statements: "I'm worried about you because I notice…" or "I think what you are describing is a form of domestic abuse…"[2]
  2. Image titled Break the Cycle of Abuse Step 14
    Help your friend identify the problem. If your friend's spouse is violent, your friend is in a dangerous position. Your friend may not yet have language to describe the situation they are in. If their partner has not physically harmed them or their children, or if they are not constantly violent, your friend may not think the problem is serious. But violence toward anyone is a predictor of spousal abuse. If their partner is violent in any way, your friend is not safe.[3]
  3. Image titled Be Comfortable Around Strangers Step 7
    Tell them you support them. Your friend's self esteem may be badly damaged from being married to an abuser. You can help by telling your friend that you believe them, and that they are not alone.[4]
    • Tell your friend that the violence is not their fault. It is only the fault of the abuser.
    • Tell your friend you are there for them no matter what.
    • Say you are willing to help in any way you can.
  4. Image titled Take Action to Help Stop Human Rights Violations Step 5
    Offer yourself as a resource. Reassure your friend that there are options for them. Offer the ways in which you can be a resource: Can you offer them and/or their children a place to stay? Can you check up on them regularly? Can you help them get their finances in order? Are you willing to help rescue a beloved pet?[5]
    • Offer to go along if your friend wants company going to the police, to court, or to see a lawyer.
    • It is possible your friend's spouse may be monitoring their computer activity and checking their internet browser history. Offer to find information for your friend or allow them to use your computer to contact lawyers, shelters, etc.
  5. Image titled Break the Cycle of Abuse Step 6
    Suggest domestic violence resources. Offer helpful phone numbers and web resources. Help your friend look up shelters, counseling services, and support groups in the area.[6]
    • Give your friend the number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE.
    • Send your friend to the NDV website,
    • Help them locate a state coalition.[7]
    • Help your friend get in touch with a lawyer who can help them draft protection orders and help them through divorce proceedings later down the line. Check out the American Bar Association's directory for lawyers who will work pro bono on domestic violence cases.
  6. Image titled Cope With the Death of a Grandparent Step 4
    Be patient. Your friend may not be ready to leave the relationship. They may be afraid of doing so, or they may have financial or emotional reasons. You can help them by staying in their life, offering sympathy and support, and doing what you can to empower them to make the changes they need.
    • Listen to them. Giving your friend your attention and your emotional support will help empower them within their predicament.[8]
    • Wait. You may be anxious to rescue your friend, but you can't. It has to be your friend who makes the choice.
    • Let them know you will stand by them no matter how long it takes to sort out their life.

Part 2
Helping Your Friend Make a Safety Plan

  1. Image titled Deal With Teen Pregnancy Step 12
    Help them make a plan to stay safe at home. If your friend is currently unable or unwilling to leave their partner, help them make up a safety plan. Help your friend determine what parts of the house have exits and no weapons. Help your friend practice moving into those areas when arguments occur.[9]
    • Go through the house and find hiding places for weapons and dangerous household items. Bats, knives, and guns should be as out of sight and hard to reach as possible.
    • Sort through your friends wardrobe and put away scarves and necklaces that could be used to strangle them.
    • Your friend should keep a fully-charged phone turned on and nearby at all times.
    • Emergency contacts should be quick to dial. Remind your friend to call 911 if their life is in danger.
    • Define a code word with your friend. If they need help, they can call you and say something that only you will understand. For instance, they might call you and say "Hello, do you do deliveries?" or say a single phrase that is unusual but not so strange as to arouse suspicion, like "stone fruit."[10]
    • Practice self-defense strategies with your friend. When a violent encounter is inevitable, they should jump into a corner and huddle as small as possible, protecting their face and skull by holding their arms up on each side of their face with fingers locked together.
    • Consider signing up for self defense classes with your friend.
  2. Image titled Deal with Domestic Violence Step 12
    Make a quick exit plan. Like you would for a house fire, plan an emergency exit route. Help your friend identify points of exit and safest possible routes to safety. With your friend, walk through the house and figure out where to go and how to get there as quickly and publicly as possible. Practice the escape with your friend.[11]
    • If there are children, practice with the children.
    • Advise your friend to keep the car fueled, in position to go (backed up, easy to get into) and the drivers' door unlocked if possible.
    • Help your friend invent excuses for leaving the house at different times of day and night.
  3. Image titled Deal with Domestic Violence Step 20
    Account for any children. Whether or not the children are a target of the violence, they need to be included in the plan. A violent spouse is a danger to everyone in the household.[12]
    • If the children are old enough to dial a phone, teach them to call 911. Explain when this is helpful.
    • Teach the kids escape routes from their bedrooms and other rooms.
    • Make sure they all have phones and know who to call in an emergency.
    • Suggest to your friend that the kids know that intervening in a violent encounter between the parents is never helpful.
    • The children should know every aspect of the quick exit plan unless they are too young to know not to tell the violent spouse.
    • Help your friend plan a strategy for if the violent spouse learns any aspect of the safety plan.
  4. Image titled Alleviate Back Pain During Pregnancy Step 1
    Protect a pregnancy. If your friend's partner handles your friend violently during a pregnancy, miscarriage is a risk. Your friend should try to stay on the first floor of the apartment if any trouble is brewing. If she is attacked, she should curl on the floor around her stomach, in fetal position.[13]
    • Encourage your friend to talk to her doctor about her concerns. If her partner always comes with her to the doctor, look into the possibility of signing her up for women-only or birthparent-only prenatal classes. Your friend can then speak to her instructor about the violence at home.
  5. Image titled Burn More Calories While Walking Step 11
    Don't forget the pets. Your friend may worry that leaving a violent spouse would put any household pets at risk. It may seem strange, but more than half of spouses living with domestic violence avoid leaving an abusive partner because they are worried for their pet. Your friend may consider getting the pets vaccinated and licensed with the town, ensuring that their name is the only own included in the license.[14]
    • There are safe havens for pets as well as people.[15]
    • Some states will allow your friend to include their pet in a restraining order.
    • If your friend gets away from a violent spouse with a pet, they should avoid leaving it outside unattended. Changing vets can also be a good safeguard.

Part 3
Doing What You Can

  1. Image titled Deal With Temptation Step 5
    Wait. It can be hard to stay friends with someone who is being abused but not taking action; however, you cannot save a victim of domestic abuse. They need to save themselves, and sometimes the safest course for them is to stay in the marriage until an opportunity to escape arises.[16] [17]
    • The best you can do is offer them resources and continue to support and love them.
    • If you report the violent spouse or try to take action against your friend's wishes, you may put your friend in danger.[18]
  2. Image titled Get a Restraining Order in Massachusetts Step 18
    Report. If you are just trying to save your friend from the violent spouse, reporting them to the police could put them at risk; however, there are times when reporting is a necessary risk. For instance, if a death threat has been made and a weapon has recently been purchased, you should call the police.[19]
    • If there are children who are also being abused, call the local child protective services office or law enforcement agency so trained professionals can look into the situation.[20]
  3. Image titled Be an Encouragement to Someone Who Is Sick or Ill Step 8
    Stay in touch. No matter whether or not your friend can accept your help, your continued support is important. Reach out when you can. If your friend is deprived of a phone, try email or other social media, or show up at the house at a time when the violent spouse will be absent. If you can't get to your friend without possibly raising suspicions (if your friend tells you that their partner will hurt them if you are coming around) enlist other friends and relations to check in on your friend for you.
    • Keep inviting your friend to events.
    • Encourage your friend to spend time with family and friends. Remind them that their social needs matter.
  4. Image titled Break Up a Fight Between Two People Step 17
    Protect yourself. If you are afraid of the violent spouse, take steps to protect yourself. Let your partner, housemates, adult children, and neighbors know if you are afraid of the violent spouse showing up at your house. If you are threatened, let the police know. If you know of any weapons owned by the violent spouse, include that information in your report.
    • If your friend takes action, such as leaving the spouse, contact the police and your loved ones if you have reason to believe the spouse may know of your involvement.

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Categories: Criminal and Penal Law Procedure | Self Defense