How to help a loved one struggling with domestic violence

Published: Aug. 25, 2016 at 11:54 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2016 at 9:50 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The statistics are shocking.

One in four women will become victims of domestic abuse or violence during their lifetime.

On average, one person is physically abused by a partner or spouse every three seconds in the United States. Over one year, this means more than 10 million women and men are victims of domestic violence.

Laura Cowan is a survivor of domestic violence.

"It's something you'll never forget, never get over," she said.

Cowan now counsels other domestic violence victims. She wants you to know that help is out there for you or your loved one.

"Let them know that I got out and they can too," she said. "They're not alone. They shouldn't go through anything like this."

So why do victims of domestic violence sometimes decide to stay in abusive relationships? Experts say there are a number of reasons, from threats to their children or family, to financial dependence or maybe they feel they have nowhere to go.

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY). You can find more resources on domestic violence by visiting the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Experts say knowing how to help a loved one could save their life. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers this advice:

Start by acknowledging they're in a difficult situation.

-Be supportive and listen.

-Let them know the abuse is not their fault.

Help them develop a safety plan.

-Identify safe spaces in their house to hide and ways to escape.

-Have numbers for help programmed into your friend or family member's phone.

-Make sure they know where the closest shelter is.

-Their children should know how to get help in an emergency too.

You can also offer to go with them to a domestic violence support group.

-Also be there if they need someone to go with to the police, court, or a lawyer's office.

Remember you can't "rescue" them.

-She or he is the one who has to make the decision on whether to leave or stay in an abusive relationship.

-It's important for you to be supportive of that decision.

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