In Focus: Talk to friends about their relationships

November 8, 2013 

Nowadays, most people know all too well that domestic violence is an issue that touches all corners of our community — our homes, our neighborhoods, our workplace, our schools and our churches.

But do you know what you can do about it? Do you know how you can help prevent domestic violence? The best and easiest way to prevent domestic violence is to talk about it — not just domestic violence, but about relationships.

Talk to those you love about love. It’s as simple as just asking “How’s your relationship going?”

Domestic violence prevention is as simple as 1, 2, 3: Ask a question. Listen. Stay connected.

One of the things we know about domestic violence is that people turn to their informal support systems — their friends, family, neighbors, pastor, etc. before they ever turn to law enforcement, the courts or even an advocate. That means every one of us is a first responder to domestic violence.

If your friend reveals something, or you have seen or heard about things going on in their relationship that concern you, it can be overwhelming but these phrases can help: -- “I care about you, and I’m concerned for you.” -- “I’ve seen (or heard about) some things that make me uncomfortable (or scared).” -- “I know some people you can talk to about what’s going on ... (and encourage them to call or meet with an advocate).”

Domestic violence is overwhelming. It’s overwhelming for those surviving the abuse and it can be just as difficult for those watching their loved one live with the abuse. Finding support for yourself as well as your friend is important. Our crisis line is available for not only people looking for help for themselves but also for people trying to support someone they care about. You can call and talk to an advocate about what is going on and learn what help and resources are available in our community.

Maybe you think you don’t know anyone who has experienced domestic violence, but when 1 in 4 women will experience some form of intimate partner violence in their life time, it’s almost impossible not to know a survivor of abuse — you just may not know that it is something they have or are experiencing.

It can be uncomfortable when people share things or when you know things are happening. Maybe you’re nervous that you’re making the wrong assumption. Maybe you fear they will become angry at you and cut you off. Maybe you’re embarrassed or you don’t want to embarrass them. Maybe you assume it just isn’t any of your business. But domestic violence is all of our business — it affects everyone in some way.

The best thing you can do is not wait until you’re worried about someone. When talking about relationships is something you already do, it’s a lot easier for friends to turn to you when things aren’t going well. Get the conversation started and start making chatting about relationships a normal part of life.

Domestic violence is a complex issue with no easy solutions, but it’s simple for all of us to do something! Just start by talking to those you love about love.

Erinn Gailey is the program director for the Domestic Violence Services of Benton & Franklin Counties.

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