Responding to Victims of Domestic Violence

To help you better understand responding to victims of domestic violence, we have provided you with a helpful list of "do's" and "don'ts" when responding to victims. Your response may be the deciding factor of her staying or leaving the batterer. Your help can save a life. You are not alone in this journey. We are here to help by providing you with a wealth of resources that will put the victim on the road to healing and freedom.

5 Goals When Responding to Victims:

  1. SAFETY for the woman and children.
  2. ACCOUNTABILITY for the abuser.
  3. RESTORATION of individuals and, IF POSSIBLE, relationships.
  4. MOURNING the loss of the relationships.
  5. FAITHFUL PRESENTATION of the biblical condemnation of abuse and of God’s call to repentance and transformation.

The “Dos” When Responding to Victims of Abuse:

  • DO believe her. Her description of the violence is only the tip of the iceberg.
  • DO reassure her that this is not her fault, she doesn’t deserve this treatment, and it is not God’s will for her.
  • DO give her referral information; primary resources are battered women’s services or shelters and National Hotline. 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TDD) or
  • DO support and respect her choices. Even if she is aware of the risks and chooses initially to return to the abuser, it is her choice. She has the most information about how to survive.
  • DO encourage her to think about a safety plan: set aside some money; copies of important papers for her and children and a change of clothes hidden or in care of a friend if she decides to go to a shelter. Plan how to exit the house the next time the abuser is violent. Plan what to do about the children if they are at school; if they are asleep, etc. (This is both practical and helps her stay in touch with the reality of the abuser’s violence. Safety planning is a process that is ongoing.) Give her resources from His Love Heals, Domestic Violence Help
  • DO protect her confidentiality. DO NOT give information about her or her whereabouts to the abuser or to others who might pass information on to the abuser. Do not discuss with the parish council/session/elders who might inadvertently pass information on to the abuser.
  • DO help her with any biblical concerns.
  • DO emphasize that the marriage covenant is broken by the violence from her partner. DO assure her of God’s love and presence, of your commitment to walk with her through this valley of the shadow of death.
  • DO help her see that her partner’s violence has broken the marriage covenant and that God does not want her to remain in a situation where her life and the lives of her children are in danger.
  • If she decides to separate and divorce, DO support her and help her to mourn the loss to herself and her children.
  • DO consult with colleagues in the wider community who may have expertise and be able to assist you in your response.
  • DO pray with her. Ask God to give her the strength and courage she needs.

The “Don’ts” of Responding to Victims of Domestic Violence:

  • DON’T minimize the danger to her. You can be a reality check. “From what you have told me, I am very much concerned for your safety . . .”
  • DON’T tell her what to do. Give information and support.
  • DON’T react with disbelief, disgust, or anger at what she tells you. But don’t react passively either. Let her know that you are concerned and that what the abuser has done to her is wrong and not deserved by her.
  • DON’T blame her for his violence. If she is blaming herself, try to reframe: “I don’t care if you did have supper late or forget to water the lawn, that is no reason for him to be violent with you. This is his problem.”
  • DON’T recommend couples counseling or approach her husband and ask for “his side of the story.” These actions will endanger her.
  • DON’T recommend “marriage enrichment,” or a “communications workshop.” None of these will address the goals listed above.
  • DON’T send her home with just a prayer and directive to submit to her husband, bring him to church, or be a better Christian wife.
  • DON’T encourage her to forgive him and take him back.
  • DON’T do nothing.
  • Your response to responding to victims of domestic violence is very important. Your help can save her and her children’s life. If you need further help, please use all of our domestic violence resources.

(The Responding to Victims of Domestic Violence Has Been Adapted by the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence)

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