October is Domestic Violence Awareness & Prevention Month, if you haven’t heard me shouting it from the rooftops already. While wearing purple and screwing purple bulbs into porch lights are simple ways to raise awareness, there are many other ways to support survivors and build healthier relationships with your own loved ones. Here are just a few.
Open up the conversation. So many of us avoid talking about our romantic relationships because we’re worried that by doing so, we’ll appear less perfect. Realistically, everyone’s relationships have flaws, and by talking about them we make room for conversation that could potentially reduce relationship strain and domestic violence. Begin asking your friends how their relationships with so-and-so are going, and open up about your own experiences and solutions. Vulnerability is a domino effect; once you start talking, others likely will as well.
Gain the courage to speak up. It amazes me how many 9-1-1 calls I used to receive that began with “It isn’t really any of my business, but I’m pretty sure [insert extremely concerning domestic violence situation here].” Domestic violence is a human issue, and whether it’s a friend, family member, neighbor, or a random person outside the grocery store receiving the abuse, it’s imperative that those of us who are safe speak up. And if you think you hear a physical altercation occurring, don’t fall victim to the “bystander effect” (where everyone assumes someone else has called for help, so nobody ends up calling). Make the call.
Support relevant organizations by donating or volunteering. It’s bittersweet how many non-profits exist to support victims and survivors of abuse. Organizations like The National Domestic Violence Hotline, RAINN, and the One Love Foundation are just a few excellent resources for those experiencing abuse or those simply wishing to build better relationships. Of course, your state or city may have its own resources, so Google around!
Attend a class or webinar. You don’t have to be actively concerned for yourself or someone else to benefit from a class on prevention. Many domestic violence prevention organizations offer classes and webinars on communication, community engagement, and more. If you live in Arizona like me, you may be excited to hear about the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence and their plethora of seminars. Again, if you live in a relatively metropolitan area, you probably have local resources just like ACESDV.
During my time as a police dispatcher, I learned Verbal Judo to better communicate with frenzied callers. Since then, I’ve used Verbal Judo almost daily to communicate with friends, family, co-workers, and romantic partners. Healthy communication can prevent a tense situation from escalating into something far worse, which is why I’ve included it here. You don’t even have to attend a class to learn it—you can quickly read the book instead!
Reach out to someone you’re worried about. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and you don’t want to look back at a situation and wish you’d extended a helping hand. If you just can’t stop worrying about someone, offer them a safe space to confide in you about their situation.
Some tips for reaching out to a possible victim of abuse:
Be supportive, not preachy. Come from a place of gentle concern; you don’t want to upset them by acting like you know better than they do.
Bring up the unhealthy behavior you’ve noticed and ask your friend how it makes them feel.
Don’t make ultimatums or expect the problem to be solved after a single conversation. Fixing or leaving an unhealthy relationship takes time. Expect (and be okay with) many more of these conversations going forward.
Continue to be supportive even if they choose to stay. A victim of domestic violence may struggle with the realization that their relationship is toxic. They’ll feel pressured, not supported, if you say that you’ll no longer be there for them if they choose to stay put. This person needs a friend.
It can be difficult to recognize the signs of abuse at first glance. But someone who scrambles to make excuses for bruises on their body, begins isolating themselves from friends or family, or appears afraid of their partner could probably use some help. A simple check-in could mean the world to someone in need.
This October—and beyond—take the time to support the cause beyond wearing that purple ribbon. One in four women and one in seven men will thank you.
The above advice is pulled from various strategies used by non-profits and law enforcement, and not just from the mind of a random 22-year-old.