Do You Suspect Abuse? What You Can Do

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Perhaps there’s someone you know whom you feel is being abused. What would you do?

At times, people suspect a friend or loved one is being abused, but they do not take action. Here are some of the reasons people fail to act on their suspicions of abuse:

  • It was none of my business.
  • I wouldn’t have known what to say.
  • Speaking out might have made things worse.
  • I didn’t think it was serious enough to involve the police.
  • I was afraid that the abuser’s violence would turn against me or my family.
  • The person being abused didn’t really want to leave the abuser.
  • The person being abused would have become angry with me.
  • I was friends with both the person being abused and the person who is doing the abusing.
  • Abuse is a private matter.

The brochure, Is Someone Being Abused, published by Government of British Columbia, notes that abuse is a serious matter. When you suspect abuse, it is important that you act on your suspicions. Why?  It could be a matter of life or death.

Don’t know what to say? The brochure goes on to explain, “Saying you care and are concerned is a good start.” At times it may seem that the person being abused doesn’t want help, but consider that the individual may be too scared to even consider reaching out to someone.

So what can you do if you suspect abuse?

Is Someone Being Abused suggests:

  • Talk to the individual about what you see and assure the person that you are concerned.
  • Encourage the individual not to confront the abuser if planning to leave. The individual’s safety must be protected.
  • Offer to provide childcare.
  • Provided your own safety is not at risk, offer your home as a safe haven to the individual and any children and/or pets. If the individual accepts your offer, do not let the abuser in.
  • Encourage the individual to pack a small bag with important items and keep it stored at your home.
  • Get to know community resources that are available to help the individual when the time comes that she/he is ready to seek help.
  • In an emergency, call the police or 911.

The brochure notes that, if the person denies the abuse, you can:

  • Assure the individual that you are always ready to talk if needed.
  • Try to understand why the person might be having difficulty seeking help.
  • Offer to go with the individual to a community resource or to seek additional information or support if it is needed.
  • If children are involved, let the individual know that you are concerned for the children’s safety and emotional well being. The person may be more willing to get help if it is understood that the children are at risk.
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