10 (Big & Small) Ways You Can Help Those Affected by Domestic Violence

10 (Big & Small) Ways You Can Help Those Affected by Domestic Violence

As much as we don't want to believe it, the truth is that domestic violence affects millions of women (and men) in the US -- and statistically speaking, probably at least one person you know. That's a lot of people in bad situations, and a lot of people being abused physically, sexually, emotionally, and psychologically who need our help. We know this, but sometimes with problems as massive as this one, it can be hard to know where to start.

How you, specifically, can help depends a lot on your experience with domestic violence, your relationship with survivors, your time, your resources, and your skill set. But there is something (or many somethings) you can do to help. Since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it's a great time to reach out and start. But still -- survivors, charities, and shelters really need our help all year around.


If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic abuse, you can find help and support at DVIS.org, the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, or by contacting your local women's shelter (domesticshelters.org).


Image via Chinnapong/Shutterstock

  • Know the Stats


    There are a lot of them, and they're not great. For example: On a typical day, 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines around the world. 20,000! One in three women are at the receiving end of some form of physical violence from their intimate partner in their life (as are one in four men), and the presence of a gun in an abuse situation increases the risk of homicide by 500 percent.

    Knowing the details of the problem on a national scale helps you educate others. As more and more people realize the extent of this crisis, more and more people affected will get help. 

  • Know How to Recognize Abuse in Others


    If one in three women are physically abused at some point in their life, statistically speaking, you know one. But that doesn't mean you know what's going on with them. That sounds grim (and it is), but the first step to helping them is knowing what's going on. There are quite a few common signs of domestic abuse to look out for, but here are the big ones:

    • Inexplicable bruises, marks, or sprained wrists, especially if they're hidden
    • Isolation from all but a few friends or relatives
    • They refer to their partner's temper but don't talk about how bad it gets
    • Symptoms of depression (especially hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, or talk of suicide)
  • Know How to Address Abuse in Others


    If you're worried someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, scampering up to them with panic eyes probably isn't the best first move, especially for someone who is familiar with being intimidated and controlled through abuse. Experts recommend approaching the person in private and preparing for them to deny that anything is going on -- and even possibly get angry with you for suggesting it at all. Don't pressure them into anything -- just make sure they know nothing is their fault and that you're available to them if they need it.

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  • Donate Money


    Donating money is the easiest and least time-consuming way to offer support to domestic violence victims, but it's really, really valuable. Charities like the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), the Domestic Violence Intervention Services (DVIS), the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence are all highly rated charities that use your donations to fund their programs and keep their administrative departments running.

  • Donate Items


    When women leave dangerous homes to stay at domestic violence shelters, they typically don't have time to back bags or carefully consider their tampon situation. Donations of must-have clothes (underwear and bras especially), hygienic products (deodorant! Diapers! Toothbrushes!), school supplies for kids starting at new schools, or giftcards to superstores that can be given to women in need are a really, really good way to help shelters help survivors.

  • Donate Old Phones


    There are a few different programs that collect used phones for domestic violence survivors. HopeLine is a great one run by Verizon that collects and refurbishes used cell phones from any provider (plus chargers and accessories) and gives them to domestic violence survivors with free calls and texting while they start their life outside the control of their abuser. You can drop your old phones off at any Verizon store to donate them, or mail them with a prepaid postage label. You can also donate phones directly to NCADV (or to Cellular Recycler -- they'll end up in the same place) and they'll be used for similar purposes.

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  • Donate Professional Clothes


    This one gets its own section because it's so important and so often overlooked. One of the biggest obstacles for women coming out of an unsafe home can be rebuilding their lives and safety nets for themselves and for their families. The rebuilding process often starts with a job, and a job often starts with an interview. Interviews require professional clothes, and organizations like Dress for Success outfit women with the clothes (and career resources and professional networks) they need to succeed professionally and get back on their feet.

  • Volunteer at a Shelter


    DomesticShelters.org is a database of local shelters for women trying to get away from domestic abuse, and it's a good place to start looking for a shelter near you that needs man power (which, to be honest, most probably do). Whether you think you'd be the most valuable planning creative fund-raisers, working directly with women and children, making or distributing meals, or handling administrative tasks, we promise they'll be thankful for your support.

  • Escort Survivors to Court


    If abuse survivors do press charges, going through court can be not only emotionally harrowing, but also really, really confusing. Many charities and shelters look for volunteers to escort survivors to court -- not to be legal counsel, but to provide emotional support and explain logistics if survivors need it.

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  • Speak Up About Your Own Experience


    If you've experienced domestic abuse and are able and ready to speak about it, doing so can really help other survivors gather the courage to speak up themselves. And as we know, the more people speak up, the more likely they are to get help -- and getting survivors help is really the end goal here. It doesn't even really matter how many people are listening -- if you're ready to talk, it'll help.

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