Natalie, Student Wellbeing Champion, shares 6 tips to support a friend in an abusive relationship.
Seeing a friend in an abusive relationship can be very scary or frustrating. Even though you want to help, you may feel like you have no control of the situation and be unsure of how to go about it. Whilst it is up to your friend to make the decision of leaving or staying in the relationship, you are still able to support them and help them stay safe.
6 tips to support your friend
1. Help your friend to recognise that they are in an abusive relationship: Set a time to talk when you won’t be disturbed. Be honest and open when you tell your friend that you are worried about their safety or about their relationship. Let them know that what they are going through isn’t right and it is not what a healthy relationship should be like. Help them recognise that the abuse is not normal.
2. Be supportive: Reassure your friend that it is not their fault. Let them know that they are not alone and there are people ready to help. Keep in mind how tough it must be to talk about the abuse, so be sensitive about it. It’s not helpful to get frustrated as your friend may then feel as though they cannot talk about the issue with you. Let them know that you are there for them, and you won’t be going anywhere no matter what their decision is. By just talking and being there for them, it already makes a difference. Having someone who cares enough to ask about the abuse can help cope with the feelings of isolation.
3. Be non-judgmental: It is difficult to see someone you care about return to an abusive relationship or never leave. However, respect their choice. You have tried your best to help. Don’t place shame, blame or guilt on the friend. Even if the friend decides to stay, continue being supportive.
4. Encourage your friend to get involved in activities outside the relationship: This includes doing everyday activities with them, as well as trying to encourage them to go back into doing something they used to enjoy. For example, if they were in a sport team or part of a society, encourage them to go back to it. It may allow them to have a sense of control and identity again.
5. Do not confront the abuser yourself: No matter how tempting it is, your confrontation can escalate the abuse.
6. Encourage the friend to talk to someone who can help: Understand that you alone do not cannot ‘rescue’ your friend. They have to be the one who decidews it’s time to get help. However, with encouragement and if shown all options and possibilities for help there are in Cardiff, your friend may decide that it is time to get help.
Cardiff University Counselling, Health and Wellbeing team is there to listen, support and give you direction on what to do next. There is the option of either booking an appointment or coming in to drop-in sessions every Monday-Friday at 3 pm.
Alternatively, you may wish to talk to someone from the TALK programme. It is independent of Cardiff University (working across different universities in Vale of Glamorgan). The service is confidential and specialises in relationships and domestic violence. If you think you would benefit from talking to someone who is specialised in this area and who can listen and advise you non-judgmentally, here are the contact details:
If you are an LGBT+ student, we also have more specialised support available. Find out more in our blog about the support available for LGBT+ Students.