How to Help a Friend

Categories: Community, Education and Training, Get Involved, Spokane Resources

Prevention at Home Video Education Series

YWCA Spokane staff have joined together to create a unique online engagement opportunity focused on cultivating increased community education and awareness surrounding issues related to intimate partner domestic violence. The eleven-part video series presents engaging, educational content for individuals from any background or current knowledge base. The videos and blog posts also offer watchers an opportunity to get to know YWCA Spokane advocates on a personal level; each contributor brings their own personality into their writing and presentation style. Each topic within the series has its own blog post, like this one, including a video. All of the other topics in the series are linked below. As you watch these videos and read the blog posts, we hope that you will gain more knowledge, explore topics that you may not have been exposed to, and empower yourself and those around to be in healthier, happier relationships. Thank you for taking the time to further your education, awareness, and understanding surrounding these critical issues. 

How to Help a Friend Experiencing Relationship Abuse

When your friend or family member is in an abusive relationship, it can be incredibly difficult to navigate how to support them. Between keeping yourself safe and healthy, not wanting to make the situation worse, and feeling uncertain of your place in the situation, it can be a difficult process.


Intimate partner violence a pattern of behavior in which one person establishes and maintains power and control over another person. Abuse can be physical, mental, emotional, sexual, financial, spiritual, and/or cultural abuse. Victims or perpetrators can be men, women, or people who identify as nonbinary. The relationship does not need to be domestic, meaning the couple does not need to live in the same household as one another. “Intimate” implies there is currently, or at one time was, a romantic relationship, distinguishing it from other types of family violence.

No matter how far fetched their story may seem, it is important to believe your loved one’s story without judgment. It is important to not tell survivors what to do or how to get out of the situation; don’t force what you would do in the situation on them. Victims of intimate partner violence already have lost much of their power and control and they need their friends and family to empower them to make their own decisions.

It can take a survivor of intimate partner violence on average 7 times to leave their abuser. To support your friend, don’t get upset if they don’t leave or if they go back to their abuser. Holding an open-door policy for support while maintaining healthy boundaries is the best way to support your loved one. Remember, the survivor is the expert of their own life. Brainstorming ways to stay safe is a helpful way to provide support.

If your friend or family member is acting out of the ordinary when they are around their partner, consider using phrases like “I noticed” or “I wonder” to begin the conversation. It is important to do your best to have these conversations in person, as their phone could be monitored by the perpetrator and text messages or emails could be unsafe for the victim.

Some great conversation starters, courtesy of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) include:

  • Is this relationship energizing or draining for you?
  • What happens if you disagree?
  • What does arguing look like in your relationship?
  • How do you both apologize to each other?

These questions can help begin a conversation to allow the victim to share what they are experiencing. Saying something is much healthier and more helpful than leaving the situation alone out of fear of saying the wrong thing. Saying something could plant the seed of awareness in the victim. We must normalize discussing the health of our relationships to remove the stigma surrounding domestic violence.

Remember, this is a situation of violence, a threat of violence, and/or a situation of abusive behavior. It is imperative to keep yourself safe. When an airplane is crashing, you must put on your own breathing device first before assisting others. Checking in with yourself, sharing your experience with a trusted friend or family member without gossiping, or speaking to a counselor all may be great options for you.

One thing advocates warn against is treating the situation with tough love. An abusive relationship is not like an addiction; cutting the victim off will only isolate them more and help the perpetrator achieve their goal. Maintaining contact and healthy boundaries are the best ways to continue support to your loved one.

Video for this topic within the Prevention at Home series provided by YWCA Spokane staff member, Jessi Taylor. Written content provided by previous YWCA Spokane staff member, Olivia Moorer.

Continue Learning with Prevention at Home!

Explore more topics on your journey empowering yourself and those around you by visiting the following blog posts and watching the other videos in our prevention at home series.

  1. Services at YWCA Spokane
  2. What is Intimate Partner Domestic Violence
  3. Red Flags and the Relationship Spectrum
  4. Respect, Boundaries, and Consent
  5. Teen Domestic Violence
  6. Why Do They Stay or Go Back
  7. Trauma and the Brain
  8. Safety Planning
  9. Self Care
  10. Self Regulation
  11. How to Help a Friend

External Resources for Continuing Education

YWCA Spokane staff members have collected the following external links for you to further your education.


If you or someone you know is impacted by intimate partner domestic violence, know that confidential advocates are always available through our 24hr helpline services by calling 509-326-2255, emailing, or texting 509-220-3725. 

To learn more about accessing additional services through YWCA Spokane during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit Thank you!

About Mia Morton

Mia has been part of the team at YWCA Spokane since 2019. She brings wide ranging skills and interests along with passion for the mission. As a Domestic Violence Support Advocate and Digital Content Specialist, Mia supports the agency's mission driven activities by working alongside survivors of intimate partner domestic violence, maintaining accurate and informative website content, and creating other content.