The Be Project: Empowering Youth to be part of the solution to end relationship violence

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Stand up for yourself and others

Being a friend takes courage when abuse is involved. Learn ways you can Help A Friend.

  • Take any form of abuse seriously.
    • What they need to hear is that you understand them, and you’re there for them. Thank them for talking to you. You could be the only person they feel comfortable talking to.
  • Be a good listener.
    • Let them share as much or as little as they want. Don’t push them too much for information but do focus on them and let them know you truly care.
  • Believe them.
    • A lot of times they may downplay the abuse, or act as if it’s not a big deal. Tell them you believe them, that any abuse is serious, and check to make sure that they are safe.
  • Tell them they DO NOT deserve the abuse.
    • Abusers will make excuses for their behavior and put the blame on their partner. Make sure your friend knows that abuse is never their fault.
  • Give options NOT advice.
    • Let them know that they have options on how they want their relationship to play out. It’s easy to say “just leave”, but even harder to do. There are many reasons why people stay in abusive relationships, even if it is difficult to understand. To better understand why people “don’t just breakup” when they are in an abusive relationship, check out “Why don’t they just break up?"
  • Respect your friend’s right to make their own decisions.
    • As much as it hurts them, they may not be ready to leave their relationship. On average, it can take someone 7-10 times to leave an abusive partner. Let them know it is their decision to make and that you will support them no matter what. By allowing them to choose what to do, they are gaining power and control back in their relationship.
  • Seek help from a professional or a trusted adult.
    • If you have no idea what to do, it’s okay to admit it. Encourage your friend to speak to someone that has a background in these issues, or to an adult in their lives that they trust.
  • Check back in on them and make sure to take care of yourself.
    • Check back in on your friend periodically to show your support, see how they’re doing, and make sure they are safe. And don’t forget to take care of yourself! Helping a friend who is an unsafe or abusive relationship is not easy. Make sure you are taking time to take care of yourself physically and emotionally.

Being an upstander is all about being courageous enough to lend a hand to others in need. Learn how you can Be an Upstander.

  • Let the aggressor know that it is not okay to hurt people. Be specific about what behaviors are not okay. Passively standing by sends the message that abusive behavior is okay.
  • Empathize with the victim. If you were being bullied or abused, couldn’t you use an upstander to help you out?
  • Never be aggressive back. Meeting violence with violence only escalates the situation.
  • Distract the aggressor. Change the subject or point out a nearby teacher.
  • Ask someone for help. This could be a friend, an adult you trust, or another bystander. There is strength in numbers.
  • Hang out with the victim and ask how you can help. Just letting them know you’re there for them can mean a lot.
  • Assert yourself. Effective communication is a great, non-physical way to stand up for yourself and others.
  • Notice the signs of bullying and abuse: name-calling, tearing others down, physical aggression like shoving, and interfering with other’s personal space.
  • Don’t ignore the behavior—it will only get worse.