Sadly, abuse is very common. 1 in 4 women will become a victim of assault at some point, and 1 in 3 women will experience some form of relationship abuse (Statistics Canada). We cannot always know what women and children are experiencing at home, and it is important for everyone to be aware of how common abuse really is.
These statistics mean that abuse is an issue that touches the lives of all people in some way, and that most people will find themselves in the position of supporting a loved one who is involved in an abusive relationship. Knowing that someone you care about is being abused, especially if there are children involved, can make you feel afraid, helpless and frustrated. You may feel like the person is not hearing your concern for them, or wonder why they don’t just leave the relationship that seems so unhealthy.
The dymanics of abuse are complex, and there are many reasons that women struggle to leave abusive relationship. Every victim of abuse has their own process, history and set of challenges that may be difficult for other people to truly understand. Abuse tends to isolate victims and wear down their self-esteem, making it hard for them to believe that they deserve respect and can have a better life. It’s important not to cut off ties or abandon a woman who is experiencing abuse, because this can negatively impact her risk and vulnerability.
The Revelstoke Women’s Shelter knows that it is not easy to support a woman who is being abused. You may be able to do something more to support her, and you can also get information and support for yourself by calling us to talk.
Here are some tips:
Listen to her and believe what she tells you. Remind her often that abusive behaviour is a crime, and that she does not deserve to be treated this way.
Don’t let her blame herself for the abuse. Remind her that her partner is responsible for his or her own behavior and that she does not cause the abuse. Remind her that she can only make decisions for herself and she cannot change the behavior of the abuser.
Provide her with information and options. Tell her what you are willing to do to support her. The Revelstoke Women’s Shelter can provide you with safe ways for a woman to carry phone numbers and information about services, as well as information about abuse that is written specifically for women in crisis.We have tools to assist with safety planning, and counsellors are available on our crisis line all the time.
Accept her right to make her own decisions. It can take a long time for a woman to decide to leave an abusive relationship, and women often return to the relationship several times before they leave for good. It’s not easy to leave an abusive relationship. Be patient as she works through this process.
Continue to stand by her. Friends and family sometimes become frustrated when a woman returns to an abusive relationship repeatedly, or refuses to leave her abusive partner. Other times, the abusive partner tries to isolate the woman from supportive loved ones. Isolation is one of the most severe risk factors in an abusive relationship, because it cuts the victim off from all other sources of support besides the abuser. By making sure she knows you are there for her, you are reducing her isolation and making it more likely that she will eventually break free from abuse.
Get support for yourself. Contact the Revelstoke Women’s Shelter to speak with a trained staff member. We can help you to understand why your loved one is in this situation, and what you can do to help and support her.
Accept your limitations. All you can do is stand by your friend or family member. You cannot make her decisions for her, nor can you change the behavior of her abusive partner.
Intervene when children are at risk. Witnessing abuse always has serious consequences for children. Children who grow up in abusive situations are at much higher risk for becoming either a victim or abuser, as well as many other social problems. Children see, hear and understand much more than adults realize. Every citizen has a responsibility to report child abuse and situations that put children at risk.
Take action to create change. The Revelstoke Women’s Shelter offers many ways for community members to get involved and take a stand to end abuse.