Some of us know someone who has suffered at the hand of an abuser. Whether it was physical, emotional, sexual, or otherwise, the victim is often left with very little self-confidence. This is a quality they are going to need to rebuild their lives, and there are ways you can assist them in doing this.

Some important points to understand:

  • Fight the urge to say things like "I told you so," or "I saw this coming." Such statements only serve to further diminish their fragile self-esteem.

  • It sounds so trite, but time really does heal. Be patient. Don't rush them through the process. There are steps that must be taken for the healing to be complete and the self-confidence to return.

  • Listen. The things you hear may make you very uncomfortable, but allow them to get the darkness out of their head. Repressing those feelings is counter-productive to the healing process and can cause a myriad of physical and emotional problems later.

  • If things are more horrific than you knew, you might suggest a support group or therapy.

  • It is normal for a victim of abuse to want to hole up and avoid other people. Try to get them out, even for a few minutes, and increase the time spent away from home. At first, they may have trouble looking others in the eye, but the more they are exposed to others, the stronger they will become.

  • Encourage them to keep a journal and write down their feelings about their life before, during, and after the abuse. Suggest they identify specific 'red flags' that might help them to avoid abuse in the future.

  • Suggest that they get involved in service, perhaps, advocating for other abuse victims. There is nothing so empowering as being able to help another.

  • After time has passed, begin countering negative comments with positive ones.

  • Try to get them to come up with self-affirmations to counter any negative thoughts that may plague them: If they think they deserved the abuse, they need to tell themselves that isn't true. If they believe they live up to the awful things they may have been told, they need to replace those thoughts with a list of positive attributes.

  • Change is good - perhaps a new hairstyle that is different from the one they had when they were being abused.

  • Encourage them to engage in some sort of self-improvement: a martial arts class if they were the victims of physical abuse; an art class; some sort of new hobby; a new workout routine, etc.

  • Help them to remember life before the abuse and affirm that they can reclaim that innocence.

  • Make them aware of the potential for anniversaries and other important dates to bring them down. Suggest a fun activity for those dates and be there for them.

  • Let them know they can call you if they ever feel anything more than they can handle: if they consider returning to the relationship, or they feel that they are a danger to themselves, etc.

Hopefully, we may never know what it is like to be the victim of abuse, but we owe it to friends or family members to be there for them after an abusive relationship. Friends and family are critical to recovering the lost self-confidence, and that attribute is necessary to rebuilding a healthy life and future.

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