With domestic violence situations, sometimes we will not find out a person is being abused until much later on. Victims will often try to create a perception that everything is picture-perfect, as they do not want to make matters worse. Sometimes victims will hide the abuse they’ve experienced and not want to open up about it. Let’s take a look at five different ways victims tend to respond to domestic abuse.
The first response is denial. Victims sometimes will pretend that nothing is happening to them at all. Even if people close to them are noticing the changes, the victim will deny they are experiencing any abuse. As a loved one, you can respond to this by ensuring that you are a safe space for the victim to confide in. Bring up specific details you have noticed and remind them you are here to help without judgment. Next, a victim can show defensiveness. They will sometimes become angry with you for pointing out the abuse and jump to defend their abuser. If this happens, do not escalate the situation. Avoid saying bad things about the abuser and empower the victim so that they feel comfortable coming forward.
A person experiencing this form of abuse can also tend to be wishy-washy. Sometimes the victim will go back and forth between extremes, wanting to leave their abuser one minute and wanting to work things out with them the next. If this happens, understand that leaving is a tough decision with even more difficult logistics. Be there for the victim even if it takes them multiple times to fully grasp what is happening to them and try to be the constant support in their lives. It is also common for victims to complete withdrawal from their loved ones, especially if their abuser is already forcing them into isolation. They may start to lose their sense of self-worth and stop reaching out to friends and family. In this case, be persistent about reaching out to the victim and be knowledgeable about which times and methods are safe to contact them.
Lastly, in situations like these, victims almost always have a sense of fear. Many are scared to leave their abuser and become overwhelmed with the uncertainty of their future after doing so. Do your best to help provide the victim with reliable support for their plan to escape. This can include showing them where to get legal aid, new housing, and domestic violence hotlines so they can talk through their situation.