BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – This October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) is encouraging locals who need assistance to reach out to agencies that support survivors of domestic violence.

On its official Facebook page, BRPD’s Wednesday, October 5 post says people who need help in this regard will remain anonymous when they call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

BRPD also advises that survivors who require immediate assistance call 911.

Suppose someone reading this is not personally a survivor of domestic violence, but has a family member or friend in such a situation? Are there steps they can take to help their loved one?

We might hesitate to offer support due to a fear of overstepping or putting the survivor in more danger.

But experts say it is possible to offer assistance that makes a difference.

According to Very Well Mind, the following suggestions can be taken into consideration when attempting to help a loved one in an abusive relationship:

Gently and patiently start a conversation

In a safe setting where the survivor feels comfortable, bring up any concerns about their well-being in a gentle yet honest manner.

Experts suggest telling them about times when it seemed like their welfare was at risk and then explaining that abuse of any kind is wrong. 

If they’re hesitant to discuss the abuse, that’s alright. There’s no need to push them to talk if they don’t feel up to it.

The goal is to let them know there’s someone on their side, who will listen once they’re ready to talk.

When they’re willing to talk, be fully present

Should the survivor indicate they’re ready to discuss the situation, it’s imperative that we grant them our full attention, researchers say.

Very Well Health indicates that it’s important to remain calm during the conversation and to set aside plenty of time to let the survivor say everything they’re compelled to share.

The article states, “If the person decides to disclose years of pent-up fear and frustration, you will not want to end the conversation because you have another commitment.”

When they tell you how they feel, validate their emotions

Extending empathy to a loved one can be surprisingly difficult when we feel they’ve made a poor decision.

Perhaps we don’t understand why someone we care about chooses to remain in an abusive relationship.

But even if we’re battling these feelings, experts say it’s key that we not only listen as survivors open up about their experiences, but that we validate their feelings.

How can we do this?

For one, should the survivor say they want to leave but they’re not sure if they can, it may be helpful to reassure them that this is a normal response to the challenging situation they’re facing.

Along those lines, Very Well Health suggests, “If you want to help, it is important that you validate her feelings by letting her know that having these conflicting thoughts is normal. But it is also important that you confirm that violence is not okay, and it isn’t normal to live in fear of being physically attacked.”

Letting survivors know we believe their accounts of what they’ve experienced and that we understand the emotions these events have triggered can give them the strength they need to make a life-saving decision.

So, instead of pressuring the survivor to take a particular action, Womenshealth.gov recommends, “Don’t say, ‘You just need to leave.’ Instead, say something like, ‘I get scared thinking about what might happen to you.’ Tell her you understand that her situation is very difficult.”

Provide practical support

In addition to listening to and empathizing with the survivor, Very Well Health suggests offering specific means of support.

This can include researching:

  • telephone numbers for shelters
  • telephone numbers for social services
  • telephone numbers of related attorneys, counselors, and support groups
  • brochures/pamphlets about domestic violence.
  • laws regarding protective orders/restraining orders and child custody information
  • how to create a detailed safety plan that can be implemented if violence occurs again or if they decide to leave the relationship. 

It may also be helpful to offer to go with them to an agency that can help, to the police, or to court.

When it comes to assisting a loved one in an abusive relationship, experts say it’s key to be patient, empathetic, and to never give up in offering assistance.

Phone numbers and websites that may be useful to survivors are listed below.