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What to Do If You Think Your Friend Might Be Abusive?

How to Intervene Safely and Effectively

Before intervening with a friend who might be an abuser, prioritize your own safety. If you feel comfortable intervening, start with gentle questions like, "How are things going between you and [partner] lately?" The goal is to get your friend to admit they are feeling stressed and might need help dealing with it. An abusive person is unlikely to respond positively to direct confrontation about their behavior. Offering support and framing it as stress can make them more open to seeking help. An expert can handle this situation, but pressing too hard could endanger the victim. Talk with other friends about what you’ve observed and address the problem together.

How to Find Help for Your Friend?

If your friend admits to being "stressed," offer to accompany them to a mental health or behavioral counselor. Normalize mental health treatment by sharing a time when you needed help or when someone in your family needed mental health guidance. Plan ahead on where you could go together to get help. You can find out by asking the violence prevention office or the health center at their institution, calling a support hotline, or taking them directly to the Fundación Amor del Bueno. The best thing you can do as a friend or loved one is to encourage them to seek professional help.

Emphasize the importance of your friend not using violence.

Tell your friend that no matter how bad things get, even if their partner has cheated, insulted, or done other unfair things, there is never a reason to hit or hurt them. Let your friend know that excessive drinking does not justify using violence, and having a difficult childhood is not an excuse to harm someone else.

Many abusive people don't realize they are being abusive.

A person with abusive behaviors may believe they are being sweet, affectionate, and loving when they try to "protect" their partner, or they may think that being jealous is necessary to "prove how much someone means to you." Some abusers, even if they acknowledge their behavior is inappropriate or even criminal, justify themselves by saying they cannot control it or simply do not care about the consequences of their actions. If you suspect a friend is being abusive in their relationship, it's crucial that someone talks to them about their behavior.

While it's important to try talking to your friend about this, they may not want to listen. If they are open to it, suggest they seek professional help. If they are not receptive, it may be helpful to speak with other influential people in their life whom they respect (a coach, teacher, parent, etc.). Explain what you have observed and ask them to discuss with your friend why they need to change their behaviors and the importance of doing so. Signs of an abusive personality include: not taking responsibility for their actions, difficulty in tolerating criticism, believing it's okay to hurt others if they hurt them, and an inability to discuss their emotions.

Abusive behavior results from various risk factors.

Past trauma, codependency, feelings of abandonment, family rejection or neglect, inability to talk about emotions, lack of validation from others, and treating women as objects are risk factors for abusive behavior.

Remember that pushing too hard can endanger the victim. Providing support and offering to accompany them to professional services can be more effective than directly confronting abusive behavior.

Emphasize that violence is never justified, regardless of the circumstances. If your friend is not receptive, seek help from other influential people in their life who may positively influence them. Understand that abusive behavior can stem from various risk factors, and professional intervention is essential for genuine change.

As a friend, your role is to be a bridge to professional support, always keeping the safety of everyone involved as the top priority.

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