How to Help A Friend....Who Is In An Abusive Relationship

Some people like to have large groups of friends; some people like to have a small group of close friends.  I  have a small group of friends, but we are very close.  I love that when life gets in the way, and I cannot meet up with my friends for a while, we can just pick back up where we left off!  Friendships are vital so it is important that we know how to take care of them.  This week are writing about how to help a friend through difficult situations.  Teri wrote about how to help a friend who lost a child, Tamara wrote about how to help a friend who is seriously ill, and today I write about how to help a friend who is in an abusive relationship.  One in every four women experience domestic violence in their lifetime.  Chances are, you have a friend who has been abused. If you suspect a friend is in an abusive relationship, it is important to let her know you are there for her.  According to domestic violence educator Pam Smieja, being a stable dependable friend is the most helpful thing you can do.  Abused women often feel shameful of their situation and your friend may not want you to know because she does not want you to think bad things about her.  Letting her know you do not think less of her is important.  You may have a strong reaction to the news, but your friend needs stability.  Save your own private feelings and take care of yourself without her.  Your abused friend has to deal with volatile emotions with her abuser.  The best thing you can do is to be stable and calm for her.

Do not ask your friend vague open ended questions like “What is going on” or “Is everything okay?”  She may be too ashamed to tell the truth.  Simply let her know you are there for her and you can handle whatever it may be.  Look her in the eye and let her know you are dependable.  If your friend is willing to talk to you about her abuse, you can help her make a safety plan.  You may be able to assist her in duplicating house and car keys and photo ID. You can help her open her own bank account or safety deposit box where she can store cash for a fast get away if needed.

Call a domestic violence center and learn more about the details of domestic violence.  Get the contact name and number for your friend.  Encourage your friend to make contact with the center and learn about safe houses.  Allow her to call from your house or phone if her abuser is tracking her calls.  You may be tempted to offer your friend a place to stay, but that may not be safe for you and your family.  Police and domestic violence personnel can help her find a secret place to hide from her abusive spouse.

When you are with your friend, avoid judgmental questions like, “why don’t you just leave?”  She might have trouble verbalizing the reasons.  Sometimes there may be very real consequences threatened if she leaves.  Perhaps her abuser uses threats to her children or family and friends to keep her compliant.  Be patient, she will only leave when she is ready.

Please continue to check in this week as we discuss how to help a friend.  As always, thanks for stopping by.

Adapted from “How To Help A Friend…” By Nancy Comiskey from O’s Guide to Life; The Best of O, The Oprah Magazine p. 260-262

To learn more about Domestic Violence, please visit

Source- 1 Tjaden, Patricia & Thoennes, Nancy. National Institute of Justice and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, “Extent, Nature and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey,” (2000).


Written by Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT

Alexa Griffith, LMHC, LCAC, NCC, RPT is a licensed therapist and Registered Play Therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Alexa enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, couples and relationship counseling. Alexa also does play therapy, family counseling, child counseling, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area, including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield