While domestic violence is a pervasive problem across all demographics, not everyone has experienced or will experience abuse. However, we are all part of the solution to end violence and abuse. Anyone can become a domestic violence advocate or an ally for a survivor.
Anyone Can Be an Advocate
While advocacy is often used in conjunction with legal language, anyone can be an advocate. Whether or not you have a background or education in counseling, law, or an associated field, you can advocate for victims’ rights.
There are many ways to advocate for the victims and survivors of abuse. You can become a professional victim’s advocate, helping to counsel men, women, and children living in abusive relationships. However, most of us aren’t professional counselors and don’t have the qualifications to become licensed domestic violence advocates. But that doesn’t mean we can’t help!
Advocacy is simply standing up for the rights of others and speaking up for those who might not otherwise be heard. YOU can be an advocate for those experiencing domestic abuse.
How to Support a Domestic Violence Survivor
If someone you know is experiencing abuse, it can be difficult to know how to help them. Abusive relationships can be complicated and complex. Sometimes, the victim doesn’t even recognize abuse or might make excuses for the abuser’s behavior. It’s not uncommon for domestic violence survivors to stay in a relationship for years with their abuser.
If you do discover that a loved one is being abused, there are steps you can take to help:
- Ask how you can help. Survivors know what they need and what they don’t. Getting the police involved, for instance, might put your loved one in even more danger. Don’t assume you know what’s best: ask what you can do to help get your loved one out of the situation safely.
- Safety first. The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is when the survivor decides to leave. You should never intervene on a survivor’s behalf unless explicitly asked to do so. You can help make a plan and set the plan in motion, but it’s vital to recognize the risk your loved one is taking by leaving.
- Direct them to resources. The thought of leaving an abusive relationship is often overwhelming for survivors. You can help lighten the load by providing access to resources. Direct your loved one to the National Domestic Violence Hotline or Domestic Abuse Intervention Services in Dane County, WI. There are typically local domestic abuse shelters and programs in place in cities across the nation. These services offer professional counseling, and the staff will help your loved one come up with a plan.
- Be a safe person to talk to. Advocacy starts with being a listening ear. The more you listen to those who need help – without judgment – the more you reveal yourself to be trustworthy. Keep all information private and let the survivor know that you can be trusted.
- Educate others. Education is critical in advocacy work. While you should never share personal information about specific survivors, you should talk about domestic violence with those around you. When we shine a light on this issue, we take away the stigma, and therefore the power of the abusers. Don’t be afraid to speak up about domestic abuse. Your voice might be the catalyst for a victim to get help.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, please get help. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or Domestic Abuse Intervention Services in Dane County, WI, and make a plan. You deserve a happy, healthy life!