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How to Help Domestic Violence Survivors

*This blog is sponsored by Crown Automotive, Red Rock sponsor of CASA’s 2023 Rhinestone Rodeo.

Pinellas County consistently ranks as one of the highest levels of reported domestic violence incidents in Florida. It’s easy to distance ourselves from domestic violence. For decades, the narrative has been that domestic violence is a “private family issue.” However, this narrative is false and dangerous. Domestic violence is a widespread community crisis.

Your neighbors, friends, and loved ones could be experiencing domestic violence. It’s on each one of us to provide an empowered support system and be a part of the change. CASA has developed a list of ways to help support the survivors in your life that are currently experiencing abuse.

It’s important to remember that each situation is unique. The best thing you can do for survivors is to listen to them and provide them with support. Don’t try to be a hero – in an emergency, please contact 911.

Make Time:

If you decide to reach out to an abuse victim, do so during a time of calm. Getting involved when tempers are flaring can put you in danger. Also, make sure to set aside plenty of time in case the victim decides to open up

Start the Conversation:

You can bring up the subject of domestic violence by saying that you have noticed some changes that concern you. Do not try to force the person to open up; let the conversation unfold at a comfortable pace. Take it slow and easy. Just let the person know that you are available and offering a sympathetic ear.

Listen Without Judgement:

If the person does decide to talk, listen to the story without being judgmental, or interrupting. Chances are if you actively listen, the person will tell you exactly what they need. Just give the person the full opportunity to talk. You can ask clarifying questions, but mainly just let the person vent their feelings and fears. You may be the first person in which the victim has confided.

Believe the Victim:

Because domestic violence is more about control than anger, often the victim is the only one who sees the dark side of the perpetrator. Many times, others are shocked to learn that a person they know could commit violence. Consequently, victims often feel that no one would believe them if they told people about the violence.

Validate the Victim’s Feelings:

It’s not unusual for victims to express conflicting feelings about their partner and their situation. These feelings can range from guilt/anger, hope/despair, and love/fear. If you want to help, it is important that

you validate the person’s feelings by letting them know that having these conflicting thoughts is normal. But it is also important that you confirm that violence is not okay, and it isn’t normal to live in fear of being physically attacked.

Offer Specific Help:

Help the victim find support and resources like CASA on our 24-hour hotline at (727) 895-4912. Look up telephone numbers and websites for shelters/domestic violence centers, social services, attorneys, counselors, or support groups. If available, offer brochures or pamphlets about domestic violence. Identify strengths and assets, and help the person build and expand upon them, so they find the motivation to help themselves. The important thing is to be available at any time. Just indicate how you can be reached if needed.

Focus on Safety:

Let the person know that you are concerned for their safety. Help them to think about a plan of action should violence occur again and particularly if they are trying to end the relationship. Ending the relationship can be a dangerous time in domestic relationships. Some studies indicate that leaving increases the chances of being killed by 75%. Help the person identify risks and ways to reduce them. Information on developing a safety plan can be found here:

Offer a Code Word:

Develop a safety code. Find the one person you trust more than anyone else in the world, the person you would depend on with your very life, who will hold your confidence and have your back. Create a code word. Make it rather innocuous, but something only the two of you will put together as a code for. Code word or phrases such as “How’s Adam doing”? The person should know this is code for call 911.

Call the Police:

If you know that violence is actively occurring, call 9-1-1 immediately. If you hear or see physical abuse taking place, call the police. The police are the most effective way to remove the immediate danger to the victim and children. There are no situations in which children should be left in a violent situation. Do whatever is necessary to ensure their safety, even if it means going against the wishes of your victim friend or the wishes of the abuser. In actively violent situations, calling child protective services is not the problem, it’s part of the solution. 1-800-96-abuse

Things to Say:

  • I believe you
  • This is not your fault
  • You don’t deserve this.
  • I’m concerned for you and your safety
  • What can I do?

What NOT to Do:

  • Never blame the victim. That’s what the abuser does.
  • Avoid asking too many questions
  • Don’t underestimate the potential danger for the victim and yourself.
  • Don’t promise any help that you can’t follow through with.
  • Don’t tell the victim what they have to do in order to get your support.
  • Don’t do anything that might provoke the abuser.
  • Don’t pressure the victim.
  • Focus on putting down the abusive behavior, rather than the person.
  • Don’t give up. If they are not willing to open up at first, be patient.
  • Don’t do anything to make it more difficult for the victim.


Leaving a domestic violence relationship is often the most dangerous time for a victim. Someone that is in a domestic violence situation may not be ready to leave the relationship. Be as supportive as possible so when they are ready to leave, you are there to help.

The best thing you can do to support survivors is listen and empower them. The steps above are a great way to get the conversation started and help the survivors in your life feel safe and supported. CASA is here to help – contact an advocate using CASA’s 24-hour domestic violence hotline: (727) 895-4912.

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