There are so many variables...so many different and specific situations. You would, of course, help your daughter who was being abused very differently than you might offer help to a complete stranger. The following are general suggestions to guide you when someone has shared with you that she is being abused. Have her call me. I will listen to her and advise her with the proper guidance.
When an abused woman tells you what is happening in her home:
1. Listen without judgment. You may be the first and last person she is brave enough to share her situation with.
2. If you say you are going to pray for her and her family, YOU GUESSED IT…PRAY!
3. Don’t offer unsolicited opinions. Bad advice IS worse than no advice at all. Unless you are a professional trained in the field of Domestic Violence…just don’t do it…even if you really want to.
4. PLEASE especially don’t say, “I would do this or I would do that.” You really have no idea what you would do until you are in the situation.
5. Instead of offering ideas, ask what help she needs from you. She may say she needs to speak to a professional but doesn’t have transportation; or she may need to use your phone or internet because her husband tracks hers. She may be ready to leave and need you to find a professional to help her do so safely. You may refer her to me for free, confidential help.
6. CONFIDENTIALITY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN GIVE TO AN ABUSED WOMAN. She has trusted you and although you may not realize it, she may be in a life-threatening situation. If you mention what she has told you to anyone (pastor, friend, a family member of hers or yours) the word may get back to her husband. Let her share her story with whom she chooses. It is her story and her very personal nightmare.
7. Realize she may share her story with you and then avoid you. She is embarrassed—she shouldn’t be, but she is. She is scared—how can she be sure you are trustworthy and she didn’t make a grave error by sharing her situation with you? Let her speak to you again when she is ready. She has had no power and control over her life and the lives of her children. Let her have some control as to how, when, or if she leaves.
8. How can you reassure her of your willingness to help and your trustworthiness? BE TRUSTWORTHY. Keep her confidence. Be loving and kind. Be there for her if and whenever she needs to talk.
9. Please encourage her to call the authorities if there is any incident including physical violence for her protection and to provide proof of abuse if documentation is needed for a Restraining Order in the future.
Thank you in advance for caring about your abused sisters. We ONLY change the world if we care about someone we do not have to care about.