How To Help An Abuser

We provided some tips in the previous article about how to help a loved one who is being abused. But what if your loved one is the abuser in an unhealthy relationship?

Many of us have heard the phrase “See something, say something” – this  is important to remember if you observe abusive behavior. If you have witnessed abuse, you can help break the cycle by intervening in a safe way. The steps below can be effective ways to talk with a loved one whom you suspect, or know, is abusive.

Remember, abuse is carried out in many forms – physical, financial, verbal, sexual, and more. Just because it may not be physical does not mean that it is any less severe or harmful for the victim. For signs of abuse and a list of types of abuse, click here.

Say something. If you say nothing, your silence may reinforce that the abuser’s behavior is acceptable. Your loved one could hurt someone, or even end up in jail.

Draw attention to the abusive behavior. Keep the victim’s safety in mind when you confront the abuser. Make sure your comments are your own personal observations. You might say something like:

  • “Do you see the effect your words have?”
  • “When you do that, it makes her/him feel bad.”
  • “Did you mean to be so rough? That’s not cool.”

Express your opinion. Let the abuser know you’re concerned. You may even let them know that their behavior is making you uncomfortable. Try saying:

  • “I’m surprised to see you act that way. You’re better than that.”
  • “Your behavior makes me uncomfortable. It’s not right.”

Re-define what a healthy relationship means. Let the abuser know that loving their partner does not mean controlling them. Reiterate that treating their partner with respect, and as an equal, is important in a healthy relationship.

Offer suggestions or solutions. Let the abuser know that they should never hit anyone that they love. You might also say something like, “How would you feel if your sister/brother was with someone who acted the way you do?” Finally, let the abuser know that they can call you if they think they’re going to lose control, or to seek out counseling.

If the abuser’s behavior is criminal, say so. Domestic violence is a crime, and your loved one can be arrested for it.

The abuser may not listen, may deny it, be angry, ignore you or make excuses. They may want to justify or rationalize the abusive behavior by talking about their partner and what they did to provoke it. The abuser may even laugh it off or make fun of you. Still, you should say something. Remind them that violence is always a choice. Help your friend learn that abusive/controlling behaviors are never acceptable, and that healthy relationships are based on respect, equality, trust and love.

If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.

National Hotlines

1. National Domestic Violence Hotline
Call 800-799-7233, 24-hour crisis hotline
Chat:, 7 a.m. – 2 a.m. CT

2. LoveIsRespect – serves teens/young adults experiencing dating violence
Call 866-331-9474
Text “love is” to 22522
Chat at
Blog article:

Local Batterer Intervention Programs

1. Crossroads

2. Southeast, Inc.

3. Stop, Inc.

4. Africentric Personal Development Shop



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