What can you do? / How can you help?
It is important to recognise early signs and warning signals of violence and perceive them as such. Moreover, it is important for affected women to talk to people that they trust.
No Victim Blaming
Sometimes women who have experienced violence think that they are at fault or at least partially complicit in their experiences. Occasionally, they are also seen by outsiders as culpable. Such finger-pointing from within and without, even when it's masked or unconscious, is completely unjustified. The abuser is solely responsible for the violent acts. The victim is not to blame.
Confiding in someone
It often does good to confide in others and talk about the experience. In this respect, it is important to choose people you trust and think about what you want to tell them. It can also be very helpful to communicate clearly what kind of support you need and how others can help.
If those affected by violence talk about their experience they generally do so first of all with people from their close environment. In this respect, the way trusted people react is very important for them. An understanding and supporting environment essentially influences how victims will be able to cope with their experience.
Relatives or people offering support should thus open up opportunities for talking about the incidents. In this respect, it is vital to take the victims seriously in terms of what they say, what they have experienced and how they feel. Doubts are inappropriate and may represent an additional severe strain.
In addition, it is important to encourage and support the victims without urging them to take actions, which are not self-directed. Measures should not be taken without the agreement of or against the will of the victim. Support should always be geared towards the needs of the victim, not one’s own needs. In any case, it is important to take an unequivocal stand and condemn the use of violence.
Avoid additional stress
Experiencing violence represents a severe psychological and physical strain. For that reason, victims should take care of themselves, i.e. avoid additional stress, do pleasant things which distract them from strain and ensure they get enough sleep and rest. Everybody has different needs – for some, doing sports can provide important support, for others it is spending time with close friends or relatives. Taking care of oneself helps in coping with the experiences.
Seeking professional support
Many women affected by violence need support. They can get it from rape crisis centres and women’s counselling centres irrespective of the type of violence experienced. Nobody needs to cope with this by herself. Professional support given by counsellors and psychotherapists can be of great help in dealing with the violations. It is also helpful if relatives inform themselves of such services and stand by the victims when they are looking for help. Relatives may also benefit from counselling and get information on how they can support victims best.