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Your Friend Has Been Abused: What Do You Do?

December 29, 2019

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When a friend discloses their experience of abuse, it is often extremely difficult to know what to do. Our society does not teach us how to usefully deal with interpersonal harm — in fact, it often does the opposite. It teaches us that we are all on our own, that we must somehow deserve the abuse we experience, and that all the help we need is best provided by people in positions of authority in our society, be they social services or the criminal justice system.

As a result, when we are approached by someone who has experienced abuse, we often respond in ways that are harmful to a survivor. Attempts to rationalize abuse can result in victim-blaming (i.e., “if you had not worn that outfit, you would not have been assaulted” or “maybe you shouldn’t drink with colleagues if you want to keep the relationship professional” or “ you shouldn’t have lent someone money if you weren’t in a position to make do without that money”).

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