Ways we can all help victims of abuse
Shalom Task Force
There are many themes of Chanukah, as well as lessons to inspire our modern lives. We reflect on the centrality of the Menorah, as we light our candles and transform the darkness of the winter nights with the candles’ light. Chanukah allows us to reflect on what it means to transform darkness, pain, trauma and find healing, future, hope. There are many within our community for whom Chanukah is not joyous- they may feel as if they are living in the dark, that their reality is unknown and unseen.
While at Shalom Task Force we constantly discuss the issue of domestic violence, we recognize that it is simply hard to know what do or say to help a friend struggling. Our job is to bring light to where there is darkness, and to do this collectively as a community.
Here are eight guidelines on how to be helpful and supportive
Say: I believe you
These simple three words embrace the victim. Victims are afraid that they will not be believed, and worse, will be blamed. By acknowledging that you believe them, it helps the victim feel that they can continue to come to you for support.
Do not say: “Are you sure?” or “I can’t believe it”
Victims question themselves enough. Even if you feel shocked, always believe and support them when they initially tell you their story. Your role is to be supportive friend, not the judge and jury on the case.
Say: This is not your fault. You did not do anything to deserve this
Victims will often blame themselves for the abuse, thinking that they somehow should “be a better wife/husband/partner” or should have known better. It is important to reassure them that it is not their fault and nothing they have done justifies the abuse.
Do not ask: What did you do?
Although you may have not meant it by your question, asking “what did you do” translates to the victim as “it is your fault.”
Say: I support you, you are not alone
Victims often feel that they are the only person in the world going through this situation. Let them know that you support them and that you will be there to help them. By assuring them that they are not alone, that you stand by them, and that others have survived this situation, they will feel more optimistic about finding the help that they need.
Do not: Become the “savior”
Although it is difficult to see someone get hurt, ultimately, the victim is the one who has to make the decisions about what they want to do and when. It’s important for you to support them no matter what they decide and help them stay safe, even if they decide to stay in the abusive relationship.
Do not: Do anything that can compromise safety
It is critical that you keep their information private and confidential. Do not engage or confront the partner.
Ask: How can I be helpful?
As a support system, you must help the victim as they want to be helped, and not how you think they should be helped. By giving the victim the power to determine what help they need, it empowers them and helps them to regain their strength. Having a resource at your fingertips can be helpful.
The ninth light is the Shamash, which helps to light the other candles. Having a resource at your fingertips to help a victim is critical to bringing light back into their life. While it’s important to provide support to the victim, it is also equally important to know that there are agencies in our community that can help and have expertise in safety planning. It’s okay for you not to know exactly what to do but being able to help connect the victim to those who do is critical. Call Shalom Task Force’s Confidential Hotline with the victim to help receive support and referrals for a next step.
Unlike our Shabbos candles, we don’t light our Chanukah candles in the privacy of our dining rooms; we light our Menorahs where everyone can see them. This way, we can collectively fight the darkness, and bring awareness and light to help diminish others’ pain. When we light our candles each night of Chanukah, we connect to our history of triumph and miracles. We are making a statement that we, too, want to bring light into darkness to those who are the most vulnerable and help them triumph and find hope in the future.
If you or someone you know could benefit from speaking to a trained advocate, please call our confidential hotline at 1-718-337-3700 or 1-888-883-2323.
By Shoshannah D. Frydman, PhD, LCSW