What To Say To A Victim Of Domestic Violence

May 16, 2015 Kellie Jo Holly

Knowing what to say to a victim of domestic violence can make all the difference in the world. You have to change the victim of violence's reality. Read how.

So what do we say to a victim of domestic violence? More specifically, what should we say to a friend who is abused if they come to us for help? The confusion over what to say is warranted. Even my mother didn't know what to say to me when I cried to her about the abuse, and my mother is brilliant. However, since I've been an abuser's target, I have a good idea of what to say to a victim of domestic violence, and I'll tell you all about it.

For years before I left my abusive marriage, I didn't even understand that my husband abused me. If someone flat out said, "Kellie Jo, that jerk is abusive. You're a victim of domestic violence!" I probably would have wanted to kick them where the sun don't shine. I wouldn't have, because physical violence of all kinds is wrong, but that's how I would have felt (see Trapped In An Abusive Relationship).

However, I may have responded to something like this:

I am so sorry to hear that you're feeling (depressed, scared, hurt, etc.). I can't imagine how bad it must feel for someone you love to say/do those things to you. I know you care for them deeply, so when this happens it must hurt more than I can imagine. I wish I could take away your pain, but I know I can't.

You know, dear one, many people who get angry at the ones they love want to preserve their relationship (just as you do). Yet, when you describe your relationship to me, I feel that s/he lashes out unfairly. I don't know what I can do unless you tell me what I can do to help. What can I do to help?

I know it doesn't seem like enough. I know you want to run to the house and give what's-his/her-name a piece of your mind and slam the door in his/her face after grabbing all your loved one's things. But that is not going to work.

What You Say to a Victim of Domestic Violence Changes Her Reality

Knowing what to say to a victim of domestic violence can make all the difference in the world. You have to change the victim of violence's reality. Read how.In speaking to your loved one in the matter described, you subtly remind him or her that there are three people involved in the current conversation: you, him/her, and the abuser. You remind him/her that he/she are separate from his/her abuser, which helps to detach from the abuse and remind him/her that he/she has his/her own choice to make. You can't make any choice for him/her although you greatly sympathize with his/her pain.

This type of conversation will be different from the others your friend encounters after an abusive episode. You see, with other friends, your loved one gets the chance to reverse course. When other friends attack the abuser, your loved one has the opportunity to defend the abuser and, by doing so, convince him or herself to stay in the abusive relationship.

The best thing you can do is to not give her (or him) the opportunity to defend the abuser. Let him/her be separate from the abuser, let him/her stay in his/her own mind for awhile. Ask what you can do to help, then wait for the answer.

For more, see How To Help Someone Leave An Abusive Relationship

You can also find Kellie Jo Holly on her website, Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so please do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.

APA Reference
Jo, K. (2015, May 16). What To Say To A Victim Of Domestic Violence, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Kellie Jo Holly

I know
July, 21 2022 at 7:14 am

it's easy to tell someone to just leave, it's the most dangerous time in a DV relationship, never tell them; "just leave, if it's do bad, why don't you jut leave" they and only they know how bad it is and what the abuser is capable of, don't push them if you are not willing to be there to pick them up when the crumble with grief and sadness, be there for them, listen, don't preach or lecture, they need love and compassion not schooling.

December, 25 2017 at 10:00 am

I am actually understanding more that I am a victim myself. I'm in my third abusive relationship. I never went to any counsling my first DV where 2days after thanksgiving he nearly killed me in front of both kids (girls). He is the father of my youngest. I was in a arm cast fracture and bruised. He called law on me. I never called law out of the 8.5 years of playing house. I really was in such denial. I wanted him back because I honestly really believed I Needed him. Put the state automatically activated a FULL No contact restraining order. Put I still saw him. After a year pasted I got use to him not living with me. I became to find my own way. I was Very Lucky not to dye by now. The court only gave me a number if I wanted counsling. It wasn't mandatory to learn about abuse. I thought I call the domestic help line (Not for me, it was for my kids to keep me around) I was in soon much denial. And never followed through. I called as I sat in my car in front of this big building with several different offices of all kinds. I was hoping I be able to see someone right away. No I Needed to Wait for the counselor to Call me Back to make an appointment. I told the lady I'm in front of the office building and "they(police) say I'm a victim of abuse so I'm tryin bbq to do this counsling for my kids... and I Needed to see someone for some understanding. She said I will have to wait for someone to call me back to make an appointment. I never got the counsling. I lived my life single for almost just about years. No my family wants much help like my sis who like to tell me about my self and in front of all her so called friends when I drop my kids to work night shift and she don't work. I will pay her and bring food for my and get kids anytime my kids stay there. It was a struggle and lots of mind control. She would call me names her self curse and tell everyone how I get beat up by men and I'm so dumb etc. I then got together with a felon of 9years and 8months in prison. He was (31yrs) and my sister best friend Brother. and we went to school together. I was picking up my kids from my night shift. And he was in my sis apt looking built clean and had a Mercedes picking up his sister. We chatted and connected where he helped me with my messed up engine getting me into a better car. Also he played on the fact I was a perfect target to mind control as I let him easily into my personal life as far as openin ? Up saying I'm in a struggle and kids father not around and I only see my sis to drop and pick up my kids. (I'm a loner) he played on it and he went back to prison soon after for violating parole hittin me. He did 18months. He out already. I was told I should of Never called the police because he was doing so good helping is father run his business etc. I found my self apologizing for this. Not One person ask If I was Alright. I was Bruised and scared he was drunk and yes scary! I still didn't seek help and told my self I will stay single. Then in 2016 I find myself helping a guy 7yrs Younger them Me. Which he became attached to me. I got use to him. My daughter didn't like the fact a guy was around. Then my sis who never comes over my place was upset I have a guy around tellin me I shouldn't be dating etc. He obviously started to see I had no-one. And it pushed me easily where we then became couple. And my kids went to live with there dad. I choose a man over my kids(in nutshell) I only isolated myself more. Went to prison, struggle of real homeless, and Thank you I didn't turn to heavy drugs like Crack cocaine etc. However, all through teen age I smoked herd. tho I wasn't smokin herb everyday prison, money low etc. Basically I still was in denial and all because I never got help to understand why I keep walking into this black whole. Why can't I walk around it! So he too beat me up the Most. I now need to Help Myself by speaking to the Right people But Who is the Right People???. So I'm here writing online to You. All you I'm Not alone I see and Neither are YOU.! I definitely found peace in God with never givin up on MY Life!
I was before with my behavior which I was blind to. I was just attacked still healing and he still out there. Yes I Made a police report and I know people are looking at me calling me stupid dum and it's my fault my own blood. Yes it hurts and makes me see more NOW that NO it's Not My Fault! It's my fault if I don't do Nothing about it NOT MY FAULT I GET HIT nobody should be hit manipulated talk down too, personal belongings broken etc. I choose to live I can't him and his anger. His anger is Killing me. I can't think straight or make my own decisions or speak for myself or he will get angry and jealous. He one way with me and different with others. I'm Not letting No More Abuse! I work hard for my apt car and most all My kids I was a wonderful mother kids were well tooken care of and I was a nursin student at that! So yes I'm smart in books But Now Getting right Now and not stopping I'm educating Myself through internet and counsling I know people are and will stay I should of known better better I saw my own mother get abused Lot! And I'm suppose to be stronger. But those people don't Understand that this is a cycle that can be broken Only if One seeks help and Not in denial. LOVE YOUR SELF IF YOU DON'T NO ONE WILL.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 26 2017 at 8:15 pm

Blessed, Thank you for reaching out! I am so sorry for all you've dealt with through the years and I commend you for seeking help and information online, that's a big step and a great way to work toward a better life for yourself and your children. I think there are many resources that you could take advantage of, resources for women who have suffered, and/or are currently suffering abuse. Legal help, help to get paired with a great therapist, etc. I think getting a therapist may be really helpful for you, I know getting therapy was instrumental in my journey. Here is a link to a page with some links and hotline numbers that may get you the care and help that you deserve. Mental Health and Abuse Resources
Thank you again for reaching out. -Emily

Worried sick
February, 26 2018 at 7:17 am

Hi I am a mother of a abused daughter. My question is, what do I say to my daughter if she won’t leave her abuser, after I have said I think your being abused and I’m worried about your safety and so on everything I have read that’s good to say? And she refuses to admit and talk about the abuse, what do I say then, and what do I continue to do, if she won’t talk about it?

July, 19 2017 at 1:34 pm

They all told me to leave him they hated him.I loved him. And when he finally went to jail I was forced to end it. And what bothers me is I has been isolated for so long and my family and friends, the same ones telling me to leave him, were not around after I "left" him.I was alone and angry and I wanted him back because I felt I had no one else. If all these people who were butting into my life ignored me and didn't care about me then I.Might as well be with him

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

July, 19 2017 at 1:41 pm

And they wonder why I kept going back! Well you aren't sitting in your home alone, depressed, hurt, an emotional wreck, mentally unstable not a friend in the world to talk to.

November, 19 2015 at 4:55 pm

What I find harder is telling people that I was in a domestic violent marriage and having them believe me. I am lucky that I have my best friend who saw and heard what was being said to me.

July, 6 2015 at 5:57 am

To the family of an abused person.....
Please do not forsake the person.yes they may seem ungrateful/odd and just plain mean.It is fear that has caused this. Do not try and force her/him to leave.Do NOT abandon the person.
In their own time they will leave and then be ready to help more than ever.
How do I know this? This si what happened to me.

May, 21 2015 at 6:19 am

This is an excellent point. Before I resolved to leave my abusive relationship, I really did not want to confide in anyone about just how bad it was. I was afraid deep down that someone would confirm what I knew all along....that it was real abuse happening....and then I'd have to leave, which I was just not ready to do. I loved hearing stories of other husbands who seemed to be "just as bad" as mine so I could convince myself that our problems were normal. And I also thought that I was "working the problem" in my own way, and trying to get him the right help for his issues, though he was resisting every step of the way.
Once it was clear that nothing was going to change, and I filed for divorce, my new struggle was in feeling like I needed to defend *myself* to certain friends I finally told. Some had no idea what I had been going through, and are suggesting that I "give him another chance," "try couples counseling" etc. as if I hadn't tried that already, and that divorce were the worst possible thing I could do for all of us. It hurts, b/c it confirms the words of my abuser, which I am trying so hard to detach from. I know I'm not answerable to anyone but myself and God, and my conscience is clear, but being misunderstood like that is an awfully lonely place to be.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 6 2018 at 8:17 am

I hear you so loudly & clearly. I am so alone because my one friend blamed me when I told her about it. She kept asking me, "But what did you do?" As if anyone would knowingly do something to bring on such cruelty from their mate? No, I am not to blame for any of his behavior.
I thank God for the inner strength to stand fast in what I know is true and right and good for me.
I stand all alone, it sucks badly sometimes, but it's better than having my soul ripped to shreds by a charming ghoul.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 9 2018 at 9:20 am

The first mutual friend I told after I left (after many months) responded with “there’s two sides to every story”. It took me several more months to realize what they basically said was “hey, you must have given them a REASON to treat you like that”. That’s the worst thing anyone could say. Already a victim, and giving more validity to the idea that you deserve it.

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