How to help your friend or roommate

Every situation is unique.

It’s important that your responses to abuse always reflect those differences. Some tips, however, are broadly applicable and can help you support a friend or roommate in a number of different circumstances.

The following suggestions include ways to support a friend or roommate dealing with abusive relationships.

  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone you think might need help (and is open to receiving your help). Center their safety in your concerns, letting them know you’re available and want to help.
  • Be supportive, listen patiently, and honor their decisions. Emphasize that abuse is never their fault and that they deserve a healthy and respectful relationship. Continue to be supportive of them even if you disagree with choices that they make.
  • Help your friend or roommate create a safety plan that works for their needs. Ask them how they’d like you to respond in moments of crisis, including who to contact, at what point to get help, and how—including whether or not to contact law enforcement. Create code words to indicate when they need help.
  • Brainstorm plans for situations in which your friend’s or roommate’s phone, money, keys, ID, or other valuable items are lost or stolen, including ways to transfer money or seek help. Hold on to copies of their important documents in case the originals are stolen or destroyed.
  • Help your friend or roommate create an emotional safety plan that includes activities you can do together. If abuse is less frequent or severe when more people are around, make additional plans to hang out or schedule group study sessions when your friend or roommate’s partner is likely to be around.
  • Document any abuse as much as possible, even if it’s not visible or obvious. List dates and descriptions, and keep documentation in a place hidden away from their partner(s).
  • Identify resources that can further support your friend or roommate, including school or community services or love is respect.

Remember to look out for your own safety, too.

A few simple precautions and reminders to minimize the risk of harm while helping others.

Add a lock to your bedroom door if you don’t already have one. A door stopper wedged under the door from the inside is a suitable alternative until you can get a solid lock installed.

Keep a charged phone with you at all times.

Ask nearby friends or family if you can stay with them for a couple nights if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe at your own place.

If possible, visit school counselors or medical professionals to address stress or secondary trauma.

Remember to use caution when getting involved in situations of abuse and avoid putting yourself or others in physical danger. Asking unrelated questions can sometimes help to distract and de-escalate high-stress situations; simply being present can also make the individual less inclined to abuse.

Practice self-care (and lots of it). You can’t support a friend or roommate if you’re not taking care of yourself.

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