*Safety – Ensure immediate safety. A DV victim will not be able to think clearly, talk or plan if she is afraid. Explore ways she can maximize her safety whether or not she leaves the relationship. Explore options with her – shelter, obtaining a protection order, contacting police, getting an attorney, leaving the area for an undisclosed location, setting aside money to leave at a later date, safety planning, or talking to trusted family and friends.
*Emotions – Be sensitive to and discuss her emotions. She may never have approached anyone before or she may have sought help so many times that she is hesitant to do so again. Listen to her feelings. She may be feeling a whole range of emotions from anger to guilt. If you recognize unhelpful ideas such as staying for the children’s sake or for religious reasons gently and sensitively confront these. Anger can be well- founded and a motivating factor in taking action. Let her know her feelings are justified and she is safe in expressing them.
*Response – Believe her and recognize her need for a positive response. She is far more likely to minimize the problem than exaggerate or enhance it. Help her to assess her strengths and weaknesses. Allow her to develop a realistic understanding of her situation. Some of the things she perceives as weaknesses may actually be strengths such as coping with the management of children, work and home despite the added stress of a violent relationship. Help her to reinforce a positive self image. Understand the the fear of the unknown is often more powerful than the fear of predictable violence. Be a stable reference point in her life.
*Violence – Reinforce that we all have a right to live a life free from violence. Reassure her that the violence committed by her partner is his responsibility and that she is not in any way to blame for his behavior. That whatever ‘justifications’ are given for his behavior, they are just that. Let her know life is too short to be subjected to such treatment and misery.
*Information – Provide information and referrals to community resources and domestic violence information. Stay up to date and maintain local networks to assure your referrals are appropriate and useful.
*Confidentiality – Always adhere to best practices confidentiality policies and assure her that those policies are rigid. Respect her wishes regarding follow- up contact. Let her know you are bound by these practices.
*Empowerment – Understand you are not there to “fix” her life, “rescue” her or make decisions for her. Help to empower her to make the best decisions for herself by providing options and support. Help to broaden her support system and decrease her isolation. Tell her about support groups, transitional programs and job training or education. Open the door for her but allow her to walk through of her own free will. Pushing her into actions she is hesitant to pursue adds to her powerlessness. If she opts not to this time ensure her that the door is not locked and she is welcome to return anytime.