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How can you help a friend in a toxic situation?


            Intimate partner violence can happen in any relationship. Physical intimacy is not required. A CDC report says sexual violence, intimate partner violence and stalking “can lead to serious short and long-term consequences including physical injury, poor mental health, and chronic physical health problems. For some persons, violence victimization results in hospitalization, disability or death. Furthermore, previous research indicates that victimization as a child or adolescent increases the likelihood that victimization will reoccur in adulthood.”

            How do you help someone in a toxic situation?

            Be kind and understanding, encouraging them to talk to you when they are ready. Let them know you are there to listen if they need you, that they can trust you and you will help if you can. Be understanding if they won’t or can’t leave. Offer reassurance that they didn’t cause the abuse and no one deserves to be abused. If there are children involved, offer your concerns for their safety and well being.

            Domestic violence is against the law. Everyone needs to be reminded of this. Help the victims to understand their options. If you can, help them with the resources they need to get to a safe place. Connect them with advocates who are well-versed in domestic violence. The victims need to know what can and will happen. Leaving is not an easy decision to make.

            If the person is getting ready to leave the situation, they need to have a plan for leaving, including a safe phone the abuser does not have access to for any information, money they have managed to save, even if it is not a lot, in a savings or checking account in their name that their abuser does not have access to.

            They should compile a list of people they can call and places they can go in the event of an emergency. Memorize important numbers. Keep a packed bag hidden at home, kept at a friend’s house or at work in case they have to flee at a moment’s notice.

            If the victim can’t leave, she or he needs to stay safe. Make weapons harder to access. When an argument occurs, they should go to a safe room. Don’t go into the kitchen with all its potential weapons or a bathroom, closet or other room with no exit. Children also should be kept out of the unsafe rooms. A code word or sign should be created to alert others that someone should call for help. The car should be backed into the driveway and an extra car key in the car. The driver’s door should be kept unlocked. Many of today’s vehicles have remote entry, one click to unlock the driver’s door, two clicks to open all the other doors. If the victim or the children are in danger, they should leave immediately. Children should be taught not to get into the middle of a fight.

            “Sexual violence, stalking and intimate partner violence continue to be public health problems affecting millions of Americans each year. Survey findings underscore the heavy toll of this violence, the young age at which people often experience violence, and the negative health conditions associated with these forms of violence,” reports the CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS).

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