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Student Question: How can you help a friend in an unhealthy/abusive relationship?

Answer: Perhaps you’ve noticed changes in a friend’s behaviour since they started dating their partner. While they were once chatty, available, and fun-loving, now they seem reserved, hard to reach, and anxious. Or maybe your friend has come to you, letting you know that their partner has been physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually abusive. Knowing someone you care about is being harmed can cause great concern for their safety and well-being. The good news is you can be a source of support in your friend’s life.

Here are a few ways you can offer help:

  • Listen to your friend without judgment.

  • Affirm them for opening up to you about the abuse.

  • Communicate that the abuse is not their fault and is never okay.

  • Ask your friend if they would be willing to seek professional support (i.e. reporting abuse to the police, accepting referrals to community resources, etc.).

  • Respect their decisions even if you disagree.

  • Remind them that you are always available and willing to support them in whatever they need.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the news of abuse, be sure to take care of your own physical and mental health. Kids Help Phone is a great resource where you can speak honestly to a trained counsellor by calling 1-800-668-6868. You and your friend never have to feel alone. There is always help available.


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