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If You Are a Third Party to Abuse...

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

If you witness abuse or are aware of someone who has been abused, you may not be sure what you should or shouldn’t do to help. The following list describes things you can do to help.

  • You can report the abuse to appropriate government organizations.

    • If you are a mandated abuse reporter because of your professional role with respect to the abuse victim, you have no choice but to report the abuse to the appropriate state agency. It is your professional and ethical responsibility to do so and if you do not, you may be held liable.
    • If you are not a mandated reporter, you can still can choose to do so by contacting the police or the relevant government agency. A list of protective service agencies by state is provided as an appendix to this document

  • Encourage the victim to seek help (e.g., from the police, a lawyer, the courts, an abuse shelter, etc.)

  • You can listen to the victim and be a shoulder for them to vent upon. Talk with them and help them understand the nature of what abuse is and that it is happening to them. They may be in denial and not realize that what they're experiencing is not safe or normal or necessary. Having someone to talk to or assist in locating resources can be a huge comfort, especially when the person listens and does not judge the situation.

  • You can offer support and assistance in helping the victim to make a plan for exiting the abuse. Give them numbers for local resources like domestic violence shelters. Help them to learn how to file a restraining order with the local court.

  • Resist the urge to pass angry judgment, as this may turn the victim away from confiding in you. However, do feel free to label abuse as abuse, and to encourage the victim to seek out help.