How to Help an Abused

If you know someone is being abused this is how you can help:

A) Information is Power. Inform yourself about intimate partner violence (IPV) how abuse works, learn about characteristics of an abuser, what happens to the abused and what is cycle of violence.

B) If you suspect someone is being abused, assure them you are genuinely concerned and you believe them. Listen carefully.

C) Tell them being abused is not their fault. The fault lies with the abuser for they made a choice to abuse her. Think. Abusers don’t hit their friends, bosses or strangers then why do they hit just their partners and children? They hit them because they know they can get away with it.

D) Let them know they are not alone. Eight in ten women experience violence in homes, from intimate partners or on the streets. This does not mean that most women are being abused so they can’t do anything about it. There is help available and you can help them access it.

E) If they are planning to leave the abuser encourage them not to confront him/her. Her safety must be protected as this is most dangerous time for the abused because abuser realizes they are loosing control over the abused.

F) Encourage them to make a safety plan and pack a small bag with important items like date of birth documents, social security numbers, credit cards and bank pass-books, prescriptions they take, change of clothes, essential medications, child’s favorite toy, some snacks etc. that she can leave in your custody.

G) Ask them to journal abuse with dates, times and place and what happened briefly. Always record/journal when ever an abused tells you about an abusive episode. This will help in building the case in the court of law and in mediation.

H) Ask how you can help. What can you do to make them feel safe. Treat their privacy and safety as life and death situation. If they need ride to go to meet a lawyer or non-profit organization. If they need baby sitting or help with writing resume or keeping some documents and things with you for emergency purposes. Offer to go with them to these places. Show your support in their efforts of self-reliance.

I) Always remind them they can call police for help. Even you can call police if see it is an emergency. Like west now in India abused has recourse to both criminal procedure and civil remedy, PWDVA 2005. Yes, there will be many readers up in arms against DG for mentioning IPC 498A. The misuse of 498A happened because the law enforcement agencies failed to understand the language.* (go to the bottom page to read DG’s take on 498A)

 Other Important Facts You Need to Know

Know Your Self:

Helping an abused is a complex and long-term task. An abused not only requires emotional support but also logistic support, like place to stay on short or long-term basis, money, childcare etc. Assess your strengths and limitations. How much support are you able to accord and how long. This is very important in desi context and in Des where there are no or limited community resources as shelters and counseling and support services are available for the survivors.

When Sunidhi had walked out on her year-old marriage and didn’t have a home to live in, the only person to offer her a home to live was actor and TV anchor, Annu Kapoor (co-anchored the recently ended Zee’s Antakshari) and his wife Arunita.

Sunidhi Chauhan

Help or Enabling:

Often times adrenal rush kicks in some good Samaritans in to Robin Hood social service syndrome. Their heart is in the good place but help turns into enabling as helping a woman with some money here and there while she is still living with the abuser. This support is good only once or twice as it cannot be sustained over a period of time. The abused will turn to you because she knows she can count on you and she would not make efforts to change the situation for ever and you’ll start feeling trapped or being used. Help the abused to find sustainable resources, like job, place to live, legal help, counseling etc.


When an abused comes out the well wisher who rush to her aid often think she could use their advise to make the relationship work. Believe me she has tried every thing in her power, be it keeping quite and not talking back or being Yes Sir person. So please don’t start downing your wisdom into her throat because she has tried every thing and nothing worked because it was never about her. To abuse was a choice abuser made.

Never be judgmental; you have no clue why she is still living with the abuser. Do not ask her to choose between you and her abuser. If you do so then you are no better than the abuser. You are forcing her to make a decision she is not yet ready to. That is what abusers do, manipulate decisions by threats, and withdrawal of resources, affection and support. If you do so she’ll withdraw from you cause there is more emotional and physical investment in her relationship with the abuser than you.

Yes, an abused may return to her abuser even after you have assured her you’ll help her or there is other help available. Research shows a woman makes 8 to 9 attempts before she can finally leave her abuser. She tries every thing in her power to make it work. She leaves only when her or her children’s life is in danger or she realizes she has tried every thing and there is nothing more she can do to make it work. During this vacillation the one who is helping the abused may feel frustrated and give upon her. And that is what happens in 9 out of 10 cases. Step in to help only after you are sure of your patience because just like you there will be few other helpers who will give upon her and she’ll feel defeated and will give up.

Don’t Ask:

It is important to listen and show interest but it is judgemental to ask details of abuse. Even if it is one slap it is abuse. Trust me it was never just one slap or the first incident that an abused came out. A lot of water has gone under that bridge called abusive marriage/relationship. Just think what will you gain by asking her how the abuser hit her, “with open fist or close,” “what he said” etc. It doesn’t matter what you think because it is not about you. What is abusive is defined by the sufferer. Asking too many details is like making the abused relive the whole ordeal.

Robin Hood Syndrome:

Often people passionately want to help an abused but they also believe in their cultural values like family and marriage has to be saved at all costs. They think if they intervened may be the marriage and family can be saved. At other times the abuser comes to know that they are sympathetic or helping the abused. In that case the abuser tries to woo them with their sorry tales and pledges that there will be no more violence. If that doesn’t work then abusers try to scare away all the sympathesizers by threats of violence or scare tactics like stalking or displaying weapons. It can further escalate into violence.

 You are not trained for mediation. Stay away from the abuser. Abusers are charmers and good manipulators. Their aim is to isolate the victim from every possible support. When an abused discloses abuse believe me she had tried every thing in her power to save the relationship. She had kept quite due to shame, family name, love and what not. So she knows what knows what she is doing. Please do not influence her decision. You can’t be friends to both abuser and the abused at the same time. Sorry that is the fact you have to pick your team. If you believe there is no excuse for abuse then you’ll pick the right team.

Then there is another herd of Robin Hoods, who think they are doing the abused a favor by giving them living space. They are feigning concern basically their agenda is self-aggrandizement. They use words like “feel at home,” but that basically means you do the chores and laundry while I go out to movies. Please excuse the abused for being abused she does not need another abuser. These Hoods also brag around how they are helping someone. Even if they don’t use their name the news travels faster to the abusers. Trust me on this one.

Treat the privacy of an abused as if it were a life and death situation. You can report to authorities if their life and limb is in danger but please do not go around bragging how you are helping someone. It is not about you.

*The willful conduct of cruelty is defined in 498A and there is also a mention of dowry related harassment. These were two different things. If the law enforcement (read male establishment) registered complaints against battery and emotional abuse they failed to give a cause  motive for such abuses. So dowry was an easy excuse because law needs a reason motive to justify a crime. There is tremendous harassment even when there is no dowry is given and taken. What is the reason for such harassment, nothing in particular and just being a bahu is good enough reason.

More women are killed and abused everyday than those who became firewood to flames of dowry. Yet handful of women have managed with the help of lawyers and law enforcement nexus to abuse 498A. It is definitely wrong but is not good enough reason to color all other women survivors of Domestic Violence black. If you are planning to rant here on 498A please go else where. DG is trained on 498A and has worked with law enforcement so she knows the facts.

Unless discrimination against women at all levels is addressed and social obligation of being married and remaining married at all costs are not undone women will suffer. Unless communities stand up and denounce Violence against Women, women and families will suffer. Unless perpetrators of VAW are not held accountable women and families will suffer.

8 Responses to “How to Help an Abused”

  1. cheesychic30 April 12, 2011 at p04 #

    Good points Desi Girl, nice of you to coin the term Robin Hood syndrome. I have met the second types a lot you know, the ones who think they are doing you a favor by taking you in. A lot of times this also happens when some guy starts a relationship with a girl who has just broken up with an abusive partner. The second guy expects the girl to take everything that he dishes out because after all he doesn’t hit her like the previous one did. Also check out how abusers hoodwink victims by showing empathy here :

    Yes, abusers operate on the sense of entitlement. They feel they have a legitimate right to abuse (in their minds it is correcting/perfecting the other person). They have every reason in their book for doing so be it for the betterment of the other or out of their sheer love and so on.

    Yes, the scum bags that pick women on rebound are basically looking out for a vulnerable person to control and manipulate. And women who pick up men on rebound are basically on a rescue mission to feel better about themselves and show these broken hearts the true love. 🙂

    Just for this reason it is strongly recommended to have at least a gap of 6months to an year before stepping into another relationship and learn from previous mistakes or else you’ll be again be with an abuser with different face and name.

    I’ll check your post later in the evening.


  2. Prolifique January 6, 2011 at p01 #

    Very useful blog post. Well researched too. The more we talk about abuse, the better. Bring a problem out in the open and its less likely to happen again. Silence is our worst enemy.
    Keep writing Desi Girl


  3. desibahu December 29, 2010 at p12 #

    True, all an abused person needs is someone to listen and believe them. This is very important.
    True also that the abused has already tried everything in their “knowledge and power” (these people are many times powerless and don’t have resources of help/knowledge of what they are going through-they might think they are the only ones). They have already gone through the phases of not telling anyone because of not shaming their partner, or not telling because it’s a sin to backbite in some religions-not knowing that telling of mistreatment to get help is not backbiting. Or they are too attached/in-love with the person to say anything bad about them.
    I’ve seen a girl who didn’t make any sense and her purpose always seemed like just to humiliate her husband and in-laws to make herself look innocent/the victim. Typical narcissist behavior, like all her other behaviors. This is different from someone who takes abuse, hides it, tries not to make her abuser look bad, and then comes to a point where she has to tell. It will be hard for her at first, but eventually she will need to tell someone to let it all out.
    GGTS, I changed my email. I need to talk to you b4 I go to my MIL, if you will have some time available.

    @Desi Bahu,
    Some people are not only narcissist but are drams junkies too. They will use every opprotunity to project themselves as martyrs. They may be some what abused but they’ll get even by drumming around how they are suffering at the hands of so and so. That changes nothing in their situation, the abuser and abused all keep living unhappily ever after… That is their purpose of living. If they had an aim to resolve Karma for this life time they’ll do something that will change the circumstances. Birds of feather flock together…

    I am online most of the time you can catch me when you have time. Include me on your Gchat with your new id.
    Desi Girl


    • gallas January 4, 2011 at p01 #

      @desibahu, there isn’t any blood relationship in marriage, so for people who feel they’r made in heaven should be reminded to brew that holiness.

      Easy for me to say, tough to handle and with money becoming sexier than sex today, egoes have hit an all time high.


  4. anjugandhi November 2, 2010 at p11 #

    very informative and enlightening post.
    but how many women have the courage to walk out of an abusive relation,
    family, family honour, self respect, people’s opinion, financial dependence, izzat of parents, this is my destiny type of attitude, he will improve — all these are the obstacles which stop a victim of abuse to come out of a relation

    …When an abused discloses abuse believe me she had tried every thing in her power to save the relationship. She had kept quite due to shame, family name, love and what not…

    You are right and DG has mentioned it there but the thing is when she finally decides to talk and you are not there or are not listening she’ll feel defeated and give up. How many will come forward, may be countable few but if we lost the opportunity to be there they’ll be lost for ever like all those who’ll never open their mouths publically.
    Ask, listen and be there. That is all we can do to support the survivors.

    Please share this message of hope with any one who may benefit.



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A Desi Girl's Guide to Relationship Survival

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