Helping an abused friend
There are signs that someone may be suffering abuse at the hands of her dating partner:
- A change in style of clothing or makeup that conflicts with her usual tastes
- A loss of self-confidence and difficulty in making decisions
- Abandoning friends and favorite activities to be constantly with her dating partner
- A decline in grades or unaccustomed absence from school
- Injuries that are either unexplained or for which the explanations are implausible
- Turning to drugs or alcohol
If you suspect that a friend is being abused by her boyfriend, there are ways you can help.
- Make her aware of your concern—Talk to her privately and supportively. Explain specifically what prompted your concern.
- Be patient—She may hesitate to talk to you about the problem immediately. Make sure she knows you are ready to listen and help her at any time. Approach her again after some time has passed.
- Be a good listener—Don’t pry. Let her open up to you at a comfortable rate.
- Don’t judge or deliver ultimatums—She would probably become defensive and shut you out.
- Don’t gossip about your concerns to other friends—Her boyfriend has already betrayed her and undermined her trust.
- Don’t allow her to swear you to secrecy—For all your good intentions, you’re going to need help from adults, especially if your friend is in danger. Offer to accompany her to talk with a counselor or other trusted adult, and make good on the promise.
- Become informed—The more you learn about dating abuse and the resources available to address it, the more helpful you can be. But, again, recognize that you are out of your depth, and adult help will be needed.
Adapted in part from National Center for Victims of Crime, Dating Violence Information for Teens, available at www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?db. Accessed 11/30/2004.