Abused woman scared of man standing in front of her

How to help someone in an abusive relationship

What can you do? Should you intervene?

Often, we love to ‘mind our business’ in such cases but this is not right. Do something. Say something; do not keep quiet. Your voice can save someone’s life.

Here are some of the things you can do to help someone in an abusive relationship:

  • Intervene if possible

    Note that we say IF or WHEN possible.

    This is because it can be risky. You should only do it if the circumstances allow since there’s a chance you could get hurt in the process. Only intervene if you are certain that the abuser does not have a weapon that can hurt you. You also need to be sure that they will not take revenge afterwards.

    There is no way to be certain of this but if it is people you know well, you’ll decide whether to approach them or not.

    If possible, you can go as a group but be very careful since some victims defend the abuser and may accuse you of interfering.

    While this action is a big risk, you could save someone’s life thus it is worth trying if all safety precautions are in place.

  • Try speaking to victim

    Try speaking to the victim when the abuser is not around. Remember that you may be talking to someone who may not understand that what is happening to them is abuse or if they do, they may be okay with it. Also, they may feel too ashamed to discuss it. Find a very respectful and sensitive way of introducing the topic.

    Do not ask, ‘Are you being abused?’ This is too direct and he or she may be offended or defensive.

    You can instead mention some domestic violence statistics or incidents. You can ask ‘Did you know about this?’  This can help you gain their trust.

    If he or she open up, listen without judging and then encourage them to seek help.  Encourage them to get in touch with a professional and say, ‘If you want, I’ll can go with you.’

    Also, you can suggest some shelters for abused people near you e.g. Usikimye.

    If nothing happens, reintroduce the subject by saying that you don’t want to intrude but you cannot help noticing that they look unhappy, troubled or distracted.

    If they do not open up, don’t give up but at the same time don’t force them to tell you what’s going on. Find out who their friends and/or relatives are and alert them about the abuse. It is very possible that they are not aware of what’s going on. They can then find ways to help the victim.

    Whatever the case, assure her that what she is going through has got nothing to do with them and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Family intervention

    Mukua 26 says, ‘My cousin died from domestic violence. Her two boys are growing up without a mother because we all decided to “mind our business”.’ As a family you have a duty to intervene.

    The challenge is that, in the end, only the victim can decide to leave the abuser. If they do not leave, report the matter to the police or authorities near you!

    Keep calling the police, do not get tired. Even if they do not take it seriously and the victim is badly hurt or unfortunately dies, your reporting can be used as evidence. Also, the police could be held accountable for ignoring the many reports they received.

  • Involve neighbors

    In case the victim is a neighbor, talk to the other neighbors and try to find a solution. I am sure they are also aware of what is going on. If they are concerned, you can request to come together and find a solution.

    A few neighbors can volunteer to talk to the couple to resolve the issue and also guide them on how to solve their problems in a peaceful way. That is if the couple agrees to this intervention, especially the abuser.

    If the neighbors are afraid, they can request the services of church elders, friends, relatives, or counsellors. If the abuser promises to change, check in with the couple frequently to see how they are doing.

    Check-in respectfully as you do not want to seem like you’re interfering with their lives. If nothing has changed, it’s time to report to the police.

Talk to us; how can you help someone who is being abused?

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