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How To Help A Victim Of Abuse? - Society
How To Help A Victim Of Abuse? - Society

Video: How To Help A Victim Of Abuse? - Society

Video: How To Help A Victim Of Abuse? - Society
Video: Ten ways you can help a victim of domestic violence 2023, March

Love is blind. Alas, this is not just a beautiful metaphor, but a very real psychological phenomenon. Lovers really tend to idealize the object of their passion. And if reality conflicts with his light image - well, these are the problems of reality

Of course, such "blindness" plays into the hands of people who enter into relationships with unscrupulous goals: while the victim understands what's what, his resources - emotional and material - may already be noticeably undermined or completely depleted.

Unfortunately, gender socialization makes women especially vulnerable to psychological abuse hidden under the guise of romantic love. “Our Psychology” has already written about how to recognize and independently break off destructive relationships 1. And what if your girlfriend, sister, mother became the victim?

Suggestions to “face the truth” most often do not help, but only cause resistance and protest. But it is unbearable to watch a person, without realizing it, drown in a swamp, and even push the hand outstretched to him. What can you do if someone close to you is clearly suffering in an unhealthy relationship?

Where were you looking?

In Russian-language literature, the word "abuse" denotes intentional harm: from abuse of power to cruel treatment and physical aggression 2. This term is somewhat broader than the word “violence”, since it also includes purely psychological methods of violating boundaries: devaluation, gaslighting, neglect, etc. 3, although both concepts are often used synonymously.

It is customary to think that abuser is such special people, like maniacs: with a wandering smile, wild eyes and ominous laughter, like in a movie. At least, this is the impression one gets after reading the numerous comments under reports about any act of domestic violence: “Where did the victim look?”, “Since she chose this, it means she is to blame” - and hundreds of other remarks like that.

In reality, the situation is completely different: people with a reputation for excellent family men, exemplary employees and respectable citizens can show cruelty in relations with loved ones. Even psychologists and psychiatrists cannot accurately identify a potential rapist - so what is the point of demanding this from ordinary women?

Moreover, girls who are involved in violent relationships do not necessarily correspond to the prevailing stereotypes about the “typical victim” - quiet, submissive and inconspicuous. American clinical psychologist Landy Bancroft, known for his research in the field of domestic violence, emphasizes that many abusers try to "break" just successful, professionally and socially successful women - for them this becomes a source of additional "excitement" 4. At first, romantic (less often - business or friendship) relationships develop according to a completely traditional scenario, and the transition to a situation of violence occurs gradually, unnoticed by the victim herself.

The development of abuse always occurs within the same cycle, which includes a stage of tension in relations, an “explosion” of violence and an obligatory “honeymoon”, when the aggressor convincingly repents that he “broke down” and with all his might “makes amends” 5 … Gradually, the periods of "repentance" are getting shorter, and "breakdowns" are becoming more dangerous: from verbal abuse to threats, and from them - to beatings. In parallel, the victim is indoctrinated with the idea that she herself is to blame for the aggression: if she behaved “correctly”, did not “provoke” her partner, nothing bad would have happened. It is the gradual pulling into destructive relationships and targeting the “pain points” of an unsuspecting woman that becomes a trap for her, forcing her to deny the obvious fact of violence against her.

I see nothing, I hear nothing

It is a known fact that many victims themselves whitewash and protect their tormentors. Wives hide the beatings inflicted by their husbands, awkwardly lie about the "unfortunate fall", the victims refuse to write statements, "wasting time" of police officers … Why do they do this?

There are many reasons why women not only do not end destructive relationships with their partners, but even refuse to recognize them as violent. At the same time, contrary to the common stereotype, none of these reasons sounds like “they like it themselves” - reality is much more complicated. What motivates victims to deny the apparent violence against them?

  • Defense mechanisms of the psyche. Understanding that your own life has turned into a nightmare can be so unbearable that the subconscious mind triggers a variety of mechanisms: denial, rationalization, transference, etc., allowing you to not go crazy in the most literal sense.
  • Victim blame. Victimblaming - blaming the victim of violence for what happened to her - in our society, alas, is more the norm than the exception. Because of this, women can be afraid for years to call a spade a spade, so as not to be faced with a stream of various variations of the message “it's my fault”.
  • Fear of the aggressor. The cruel treatment is often accompanied by threats to the victim, her children and relatives: “If you make a sound, I will kill”, “I will take away my daughter and you will never see her”, “Let your dad walk more carefully through the dark streets”. Given the almost zero guarantees of protection from the state, is it any wonder that women in critical situations choose to remain silent?
  • Lack of real exit. It is quite possible that a woman in a destructive relationship chooses not from the options "live with the aggressor" or "leave and be happy", but from "live with the aggressor" or "be on the street in poverty." Escape often requires moral and material resources, which the victim may simply not have.
  • Normalization of violence. Women's gender socialization and many cultural attitudes directly justify cruelty in relationships: “Hits - it means loves,” “Sweethearts scold - only amuse themselves”, etc. A person to whom such ideas have been broadcast since childhood is simply not able to understand what is happening - abnormal and that the problem lies in the behavior of the abuser, and not in his "exaggerated" reaction.
  • Social isolation. A frequent tactic of manipulation in relationships is the gradual cutting off of friendly and family contacts, limiting the victim's communication with acquaintances and friends. Since this process occurs gradually, the girl, without noticing it, finds herself alone and loses the opportunity not only to ask for help, but also simply to get an outside assessment of what is happening in her relationship with her partner.

How is it necessary нужно and how is it not necessary ☒ to help?

☒ Try to "open your eyes" to the truth

The activity is most often meaningless: you have one truth, the victim has another, the abuser has a third. Finding arguments why your view of events is true, and the rest is not, can be quite difficult. In addition, the message “I know better than you what is happening in your life” in relation to an adult woman evokes a natural protest and hardly contributes to a constructive conversation.

☑ Talk about your own experiences and feelings

The format of "I-messages" allows you to express your anxiety and concern for a loved one, without taking a position of accusation or attachment "from above". An example of the correct start of a conversation can be the wording: “I am worried when I see you in such a state as now”, “I am very worried about you lately,” etc.

☒ Shame or reproach for mistakes

Even if you warned a hundred times, even if the victim has committed an incredible, from your point of view, stupidity, the fruits of which he is now reaping, there is no point in scolding him for what has already been done. Firstly, this will not fix anything, secondly, it adds to the traumatic experiences a sense of guilt, and thirdly, the victim is unlikely to want to accept any help from a strict accuser.

☑ Share your own experience

It is possible that you, too, have once committed stupid things and made mistakes - what helped you to correct their consequences? Could this experience be useful at the moment? A dialogue that begins with the words "You know, I had something similar" is likely to be an impetus for your companion to reflect on her own situation.

☒ Criticize the identity of the abuser partner

Such criticism condemns the life choice of the interlocutor. A rare woman is ready to agree on the fly that the person whom she may have considered her life partner is mean, cruel and petty (although in your eyes he may be just that). Partly the remnants of past romantic illusions are to blame for this, partly the unwillingness to seem like a complete fool who has struck up a relationship with a notorious scoundrel.

☑ Pay attention to specific actions and facts

The purpose of this action is to help the victim herself to draw conclusions about the spiritual qualities of her partner and about the prospects for the development of their relationship. Sometimes a few clarifying questions ("I heard you gave up your favorite dances altogether - did something happen? Your boyfriend asked you to? And he still goes to the gym three times a week, right?") Can help more than a whole lecture on psychological manipulation.

☒ Give advice and guidance

As you know, "everyone imagines himself a strategist, seeing the battle from the outside." But in reality, we can rarely delve into the intricacies of someone else's life enough to judge it taking into account all the circumstances. Unsolicited advice often turns out to be impracticable and therefore annoying. If you absolutely have something to say on this topic - ask the interlocutor if she wants to hear your recommendation, and continue only if the answer is yes.

☑ Offer real help

If you are interested in providing support to a woman, ask her herself if she needs help, and if so, what kind of help. Then indicate when and how you are ready to provide it. It is very important not to make promises that you cannot fulfill - if the victim, trusting in you, does not find the support she hoped for, her situation could seriously worsen.

☒ Demand immediate action from the victim

Even if it seems to you that the only reasonable way out for a woman is to break off all contacts with the abuser right now, for her herself this step may turn out to be impossible “here and now”. There are many reasons for this, and they do not always lie on the surface: the case may be lack of psychological readiness, financial dependence, legal problems, etc.

☑ Show willingness to support when needed

The simple words “I always remember you and will be there if you need it” by themselves can become a serious support for a person in a vulnerable situation. It is very important for a woman involved in a destructive relationship to know that she is not alone, that her loved ones have been and remain that resource that can give her strength and reach out at the right time.

How to help a victim of abuse
How to help a victim of abuse

Remember boundaries

When we decide to come to the aid of a loved one, there is a great temptation to throw all our strength into his rescue. It seems that, having made a "heroic leap", we will be able to overcome all difficulties in one fell swoop and continue to live, as it happens in fairy tales, happily ever after. In reality, such a scenario turns out to be not only ineffective, but also dangerous.

Getting out of an abusive relationship can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. The victim often has to rebuild his own life, defend himself against the attempts of the aggressor to “return” or “take revenge”, and in the presence of children - to resolve all issues related to ensuring their material and psychological well-being.

This process can take years, and a person who has taken on the role of a "rescuer" runs the risk of emotional burnout when titanic efforts, instead of leading to a positive result, are spent on solving more and more new problems.

If burnout does occur, the "rescuer" at best silently leaves, leaving the "ward" in the midst of the struggle, and at worst - accuses her of unwillingness to change anything. This confirms the victim's worst fears: getting out of a violent relationship does not bring relief, but adds problems that she cannot cope with, and support from the outside stops at the most unexpected moment.

You can prevent such a sad scenario by keeping in mind the importance of limiting the resources you can provide to help. You need to understand that support will take a long time, and clearly indicate the type and amount of assistance that you are ready to provide without harming your own life.

Borders can be:

  • temporary: for example, provide housing for three months or look after a small child one evening a week;
  • quantitative: for example, to provide material assistance in a certain amount;
  • high-quality: for example, to bring basic necessities upon request, but not be able to maintain long telephone conversations, etc.

In addition, the helper can and should take care of his own feelings: track his feelings and, if necessary, correct the interaction, without waiting for an emotional "explosion".

And finally, another critical aspect of support is respect for the subjectivity of the person to whom it is provided. In other words, the ultimate goal of helping the victim of a toxic relationship is to give her back control of her own life, not to transfer it from the hands of the abuser to the hands of the “rescuer”. In practice, this means that the “being saved” can make “wrong” decisions from the point of view of the helper - and even suffer from their consequences; refuse to follow even the most reasonable advice, etc.

The fact is that from the outside no one can judge the situation in the same way as “from the inside”: many nuances that determine certain reactions of its participants elude the attention of observers. The best thing we can do for our loved ones is to stay on their side no matter what, and offer options for decisions, leaving the choice - to accept them or not - to the person himself.

Getting into a toxic relationship is easy, but getting out of it is much more difficult. Women who are "stuck" in them need competent and careful support - and the more people around them who are ready to provide it, the shorter and easier the path to liberation will be. That is why the mutual assistance of friends, relatives, like-minded women is a force that, albeit not so quickly, but still steadily changes the world for the better.


  1. Chuvilchikova T. Is it violence or does it seem to me? How to throw out the old rake // Our Psychology. URL: (date of access: 01/16/19).
  2. Pivovarova A. Emotional Violence: How to Resist the Abuser if You Can't Leave // Wondezine. URL: (date accessed: 01/16/19).
  3. Tyuneeva E. V. Types of emotional violence in destructive relationships // URL: (date of access: 01/16/19).
  4. Bancroft L. Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Abusive and Controlling Men. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2003.
  5. Cycle and escalation of violence // ABC of domestic violence PsychoDom. URL: (date of access: 01/16/19).

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