often difficult to resist the temptation to “rescue” the
victim and criticize the abuser. Remember that there are very complicated
dynamics involved in an abusive relationship and changing the way
someone thinks about themselves and their relationship is sometimes
slow and frustrating. Here are some tips to support a teen who
may be in an abusive relationship
- Listen without criticizing.
- Show concern but don’t be confrontational.
worried that you could get hurt and I want to help” rather
know you are being abused and you have to break up with the
- patient. They may deny the abuse out of embarrassment
or fear, but criticism will only further alienate.
- Offer help
but do not take control. Your goal is to empower the teen to
make wise and safe choices.
- Concentrate on their strengths to increase
their feelings of self-worth.
- honest. Discuss the limits of confidentiality
up front so they know under what conditions you will involve
including parents, school, or police.
- “victim-blame” by
asking questions such as “What
did you do to make him/her so mad?” Help
them to understand that the abuser is responsible
- Criticize only the abusive behaviour, not
the abuser. The victim will feel forced to defend
the person they care about
and will not trust you to help. Understand that ambivalence is normal and
will take time to make change.
- When they are ready
to think about leaving, they
will be more likely to seek your help.
- Continue to support even if the victim
returns to an abusive relationship. Maybe they just need more
time to develop stronger
boundaries and courage.
- Ask how they feel, don’t tell them
how they feel or should feel.
- aware of your own “baggage”. Don’t bring
your issues to the victim’s relationship.
- sensitive to cultural
differences and realize that not everyone will share your values.
- Give them numbers and
names of community resources that can help
- Encourage them to share their situation with family or caregivers.
Secrecy nourishes abuse.
- Identify the abuse when you see it but remember to criticize
the behaviour, not the person, or you will only succeed
in making him/her defensive.
- Educate the abuser about the different types of abuse.
- Help them
to realize the consequences of the abusive behaviour.
- . Put-downs
only reinforce the insecurity
that is often at the root of the abuse.
- clear that violence is
always a choice.
- Acknowledge that it takes courage to talk about
abuse and seek help to end abuse.
- Offer your support if s/he chooses
to seek help.
- Help them recognize that anger is an acceptable emotion
but hurting someone is not.
- Help the abuser to accept responsibility
for the abuse. Violence does not happen because one
is “provoked” or “drunk“.
Violence is used to
gain power over another.
- aware of minimizing, denial and shifting blame.
- tell an
abuser anything his/her partner has told you.
- give up.
Behaviour changes take a long time.