About Domestic Violence

24 Hour Crisis & Support Line

How to Help Someone


If you suspect someone you know may be experiencing abuse, it can be difficult to know what to do or say. You may be inclined to want to “rescue” them or help them escape the relationship. It is important to keep in mind that leaving an abusive relationship is complicated, and it is almost never as easy as it seems to “just leave.” Survivors often have very valid reasons to stay in an abusive relationship.

Why people stay in abusive relationships:

  • Fear – A survivor may be afraid of what their partner may do if they decide to leave the relationship or feel concerned about their own ability to be independent.
  • Shame – Survivors may feel like they have done something wrong and deserve the abuse. They may see experiencing abuse as a sign of weakness or find it difficult to even admit that they are being abused.
  • Intimidation – Perpetrators of abuse often use verbal or physical threats to keep their victim in their relationship.
  • Lack of resources – A survivor may be unable to leave if they are financially dependent on their abuser and without a support network or other housing options.
  • Disability – If a survivor depends on their abuser for physical support, they may feel that they have no alternative and cannot leave the relationship without risking their health.
  • Children – A survivor may feel guilty or responsible for disrupting their family unit. An abusive partner may also use children to guilt the survivor into staying in the relationship.
  • Normalized abuse – If a survivor grew up in an environment where abuse was common, they may not know what healthy relationships look like. As a result, they may not recognize that their partner’s behaviors are unhealthy or abusive.
  • Low self-esteem – After experiencing verbal abuse or blame for physical abuse, it can be easy for survivors to believe those sentiments and believe they are at fault for their partner’s abusive behaviors.
  • Cultural context – A survivor’s traditional customs or beliefs may influence their decision to stay in an abusive situation.

Adapted from: https://www.thehotline.org/support-others/why-people-stay/ 

How to support a survivor:

  • Acknowledge that they are in a scary and difficult situation.
  • Do not judge their decisions or criticize them over a choice they make.
  • Remember that you cannot “rescue them,” and that decisions about their lives are up to them.
  • Do not speak poorly of their abusive partner.
  • Help them create a safety plan, or offer to keep a “go bag,” personal documents, or other items safe for them.
  • Encourage them to talk to people who can provide further help and guidance, like AWAIC or their local domestic violence shelter.

For more information on how to help someone you care about who is experiencing abuse, please call AWAIC’s 24-hour crisis and support line to speak with a trained advocate: (907) 272-0100.

About Domestic Violence

What is Domestic Violence?

Warning Signs

Safety Planning

Prevention and Outreach

Additional Resources