Sexual Violence Education and Resources

For Parents & Friends: How You Can Help

Friends and family find that it is extremely difficult to witness a friend or loved one experience emotional, physical or other kinds of abuse. In addition, survivors often become trapped in a pattern of repeatedly leaving and returning to the abuser--often leading to alienation and burnout on the part of those who care for her.

It can help to familiarize yourselves with the cycle of violence in abusive relationships. It may also help to understand that:

Warning Signs of Domestic Violence

How You Can Help

If The Survivor Doesn’t Think She Can Leave

Leaving an abusive situation is difficult for many reasons. Your friend or loved one may not be ready to leave, or may even return to the abuser. Survivors leave their relationship an average of 7-11 times before ending it permanently. It is important for you to support her through the entire process, though you may be frustrated, worried, and want her to get out of the situation right now.

Five things to say to a survivor when she says she can't break it off:


Remember that she knows what is best for her. She has been living with this situation and must determine the risk. It is often most dangerous for a woman when she attempts to end the relationship or has left the abuser. She must plan for her safety carefully, and it may take a great deal of time and several attempts for her to actually leave. Support her in making her own decisions.

* Thanks to the UVA Women's Place for permission to use this material.