How to Help Someone Who Is Being Abused

Are you worried that someone you care about might be dealing with physical or emotional abuse at home? What can you do to help them, and how do you know for sure if they’re being abused?

Signs Someone is Being Physically or Emotionally Abused

  • You notice their partner put them down in front of you and/or others.
  • They worry a lot about upsetting their partner and may even resort to arguing with you or others to avoid upsetting the partner.
  • They make excuses for the way their partner behaves.
  • Their partner seems possessive, jealous or controlling of them and/or their time.
  • Their partner won’t let them speak to you or others privately but always insists on hearing everything.
  • They seem to get a lot of weird injuries that they either don’t explain or the explanation seems unlikely.
  • They don’t spend as much time with family members and friends as they used to.
  • They always seem anxious or depressed, or there are other major changes to their personality.

Things to Consider Before You Offer Help

If you are reasonably convinced that your loved one is dealing with abuse, chances are that you’re spot on in your assessment. And while your first thought may be to rescue them from that toxic mess they call a relationship, you need to be very careful in your approach.

You have to remember that even though they’re being abused, your loved one may not be ready or willing to leave. There are a number of reasons someone will choose to stay in an abuse situation, but it nearly always points back to trauma bonding or Stockholm Syndrome.

And sometimes, leaving can be even more dangerous than staying, or at least it may seem that way.

Rather than try to strong-arm your loved one out of the situation, you have to think about how you can empower them to make their own choices here. See, the abuser is controlling them and exerting power over them. So by offering the opportunity for the abuse victim to sort of begin to take back their own power by making the decision to get out of the relationship, you also offer them the first step to taking back the rest of their life.

How to Help an Abuse Victim

Opening the Door: How to Approach the Topic Discussion

It may be uncomfortable to ask someone whether they’re being abused, and it may cause the person to, at least initially, flat out lie to you. Still, you can try to bring up the subject naturally. Sometimes telling the story of another abuse victim (or even sharing a video or article with them) can help them open up about their own struggles. It may also offer a less awkward way to bring up the subject so you can gently ask the question.

Some helpful articles to send:

Even if they don’t actually admit it, you can let them know that the abuse isn’t their fault and that they aren’t alone. You have to know that it may be very difficult to discuss the abuse, and that in some cases, especially emotional or psychological abuse, they may not even realize that it’s happening.

You can gently ease into the discussion by checking out the video playlist here – just send a link to them and ask them to watch a few of the videos and let you know what they think.

And let them know that you will be there to help them when and if they need it. Tell them you’ll listen, and that you’ll believe them. One of the most painful parts of abuse is truly the lack of validation.

Please Be Careful to Avoid Being Judgmental

Even if you don’t understand the reasons they choose to do certain things, please respect whatever decision your loved one makes here. And be aware that they may leave and go back to the abuser more than once. This is again related to trauma bonding. When this happens, be careful not to criticize, bully or guilt trip them for their choices. Know that as frustrating as this may be, they will need your support more than ever during those times.

Continue Supporting Them If They End the Relationship

You have to understand that just because they end the relationship, it doesn’t mean their problems are over. Toxic relationship recovery is very much like drug addiction recovery – trauma bonding affects the brain almost identically to addiction. Remember too that the more a survivor feels supported by the people around them, the less likely they will be to stay with an abuser.

It takes a great deal of courage to take the steps necessary to get and stay away from a toxic abuser, and your loved one is going to need all the support they can get, before, during and after the relationship ends.

Talk to Them About a Safety Plan

Sit down with your loved one and map out a safety plan whether they’re still in the relationship, are planning to leave or are already away. Help them know what to do if the abuser puts their safety or the safety of their children or pets at risk. Check out for more information and free downloads.

Help Them Get Help

Look into your local domestic violence agencies and see if there are local support resources, such as therapists and support groups.

Look at the resources pages at, including which contains a full list of domestic violence resources, among other tools and resources to help.

Direct them to for free and cheap ways to get support.

Pin It on Pinterest