News

Expert

Photograph courtesy Micá Morgan

1. LISTEN FIRST
I think everyone’s situation is completely different. Start by being a listening ear. Some people will come to you and tell their story, and they just want someone to listen and understand.

Our statistics show it takes someone an average of seven times to call the hotline for a person to actually leave a domestic violence situation. A call to us means that someone is having the worst day of their life. We have to be that voice of hope for them when they call.

It comes down to being a kind human and believing what they say the first time.

2. PROVIDE PERSPECTIVE
There’s an old saying: You can’t see the forest for the trees. If you’re too close to a situation, then it’s harder to see a way out.

As a friend, I would say getting people to realize what’s going on and trying to give them as much information as possible — just kind of highlighting where a person can go if they want to. Everyone’s safety plan is going to be different depending on what their situation is, but help them figure out what’s the next best step.

3. DON’T TELL THEM WHAT TO DO
I want to encourage you and tell you what options you have, but I don’t want to make that decision for you. So, at the YWCA, we empower men and women to make the decision that is best for them.

You want to help and fix and solve, but sometimes that pushes a person away. It has the opposite effect of what you’re actually trying to accomplish. All you can do is encourage.

4. BUILD CONFIDENCE
Validating someone’s feelings can go a long way. You have to build them up. If I don’t believe that I can succeed, then nine times out of 10, I won’t make it on my own. We just keep going until they get where they want to be.

My staff does a great job. Most people, when they call, feel like the staff have gone through that exact situation.

5. CHECK IN ON THEM — AND YOURSELF
If you haven’t heard from your friend in a few days, check in on them, but don’t make it obvious.

You also have to help yourself. You’re not going to be good to anyone else if you’re not good. We worry and focus a lot on secondary trauma for the staff because they’re seeing so much and hearing so much. Everyone has a different thing that helps them unwind. Take a walk, go get something to eat, step away from everything that happened.

A lot of the staff have their own therapists that they see to kind of break away and release that out to a professional because most of us are not licensed clinical social workers. They need someone to talk to as well.