For friends and family
Family violence is a community issue. Everyone has a role to play in ending violence.
There is no need to feel helpless about family violence.
Here are 3 tip sheets with actions you can choose that fit your own safety, your personal style, your relationship with the victim or abuser, and the situation you witness.
Tip Sheets [PDF - English]
Tip Sheets [PDF - French]
Neighbours, Friends, and Families: You Can Help Prevent and Respond to Abuse in your Community [Brochure]
You can be part of the solution!
- Learn about warning signs - Usually there are warning signs that abuse is happening. You can learn about "red flags" that may indicate someone is being abusive or that someone is experiencing abuse.
Educate yourself - Learn everything you can about family violence and the dynamics of violence within relationships of dependency and trust. Find out what agencies and services are available to help deal with abuse. They are valuable resources for learning about violence and it is good to be familiar with them if you want to refer someone for services. Community Legal Information Association (CLIA) is a good place to begin gathering information about available services.
Talk to the person living with violence - If you are comfortable doing so, tell the person you are concerned and suspect that he or she might be experiencing violence in a relationship. This can often be the first step in helping someone know they are not alone. It is important to tell the person that help is available. Millions of people live with abuse and many find it difficult to ask for help. Let them know they do have options and that whatever they choose to do, you will support them. Tell them that everyone has the right to live their lives free of fear, manipulation and violence. Give them the information they need to understand their options. Emphasize that, when they are ready, they can get help to live free of violence.
There is also a 13 minute video called "Starting the Conversation" created by Justice Options for Women (PEI) that can show you how to talk to the person. To view the video, click http://justiceoptions.ca/safetycircles/content/page/front_startingtheconversation
Listen with compassion - People living with violence often believe the abuser's negative messages. They feel responsible, ashamed and inadequate and may believe they deserve what is happening to them. They are afraid of being judged as harshly by others as they are by their abusers and, usually, themselves. Giving the person a chance to express what is happening to them is a step towards their healing. Reassure them that you care about them and they are not to blame for what is happening. Let them know that, while only the abuser can stop the abuse, there are steps they can take to protect themselves and their children. Reinforce the message that there is "no excuse for abuse".
Believe the victim - While what you are hearing may be disturbing and even horrific, trust that it is true and, quite likely, only the tip if the iceberg. In spite of your feelings about what you are hearing, resist the temptation to tell the victim what they should do. A victim needs to believe in themselves and their own choices. Remind the person that Anderson House provides emergency shelter for women and their children. They also operate a 24-hour crisis line (1-800-240-9894) and can give information about the support of outreach workers in your area.
Encourage the victim to seek protection - Explain that violence in a relationship is never acceptable. There are no reasons or excuses that justify violent behavior. If there were, we would all have the right to strike out at those who anger or disappoint us. Most forms of abuse are illegal and protection can be sought from the justice system. Victim Services can help whether or not a police report is filed or charges are laid.
Encourage the victim to protect herself or himself - People who live with abuse should have an emergency safety plan for crisis situations. Victims should also know their rights. Make sure they understand that Prince Edward Island has a Victims of Family Violence Act which contains provisions for protection of the victim and removal of the abuser from the residence. The Act's provisions may also allow the victim to gain exclusive use of the home residence.
Don't give up on the victim - Victims of family violence may make choices that you do not agree with. Remember that any choice he or she makes is a step forward and your support, encouragement and strength is still needed. However, if children are involved the law says that you must report to Child and Family Services. This law includes a child living in a home where there is domestic violence. The Child Abuse Hotline number is on the inside page of your phone book. The safety and well-being of children must be the first consideration. The protection of children is the responsibility of every adult in their lives.
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