The patterns of behavior with people who are suffering from this violence can be summarized as follows:
- Immediate support. Support him first. Do not question the veracity of his story, his experience or his feelings. It is not up to you to judge, the judge will judge. You have the opportunity to be supportive, to help and validate the emotions. This is already an essential help to become aware of the problem, not to minimize it and to intervene as soon as possible.
- Do not interfere. It is very necessary to maintain boundaries in the relationship with that person, allow him/her the necessary time to make decisions, and respect the decisions he/she makes. Listen, without pressuring them to answer or reveal information. She may have told you only part of what is happening. You do not have to decide anything for her unless she explicitly asks you to or unless there are people at serious risk.
- Listen to what they want to tell you. It is not necessary for you to know all the details of the story, the corresponding professionals will listen to them. Listen to how they feel, how they have experienced it, how they are feeling. Offer comfort and help relieve or reduce their anxiety.
- Provide information. Specific information on services to which he can turn to and information on resources and social support: 016, duty court, specialized doctors, shelters, foster homes, etc. If he/she wishes, you can accompany him/her to facilitate the procedures and help him/her. Do not do what corresponds to the health professional.
- Assess whether she or others are at risk of being violently assaulted or abused. There will be cases in which it will be necessary to intervene urgently to avoid very probable damages, with much more necessity if they are minors. It will be necessary to make urgent reports, and at the same time seek sufficient means to ensure that people are safe and that the attempt to help does not promote even more violent situations. Prioritize safety and do not cause more damage: assess the risk-benefit balance of each step to be taken.
- Confidentiality. Assure him/her that you will be discreet, that if you discuss it with someone you will tell him/her, that you will be prudent in the use of the information, so that the person will be protected and so that you do not spoil any plans he/she may have.
- Support. Ensure that the relationship is supportive, collaborative, and promotes the woman's autonomy. Even if she needs help, do not annul her or repeat the pattern of making her feel incapable. Try to let her make the decisions, to make her the protagonist of her recovery.
- Action plan. If you are going to accompany him/her in the process of resolving the situation, try to design an effective plan, with realistic short-term goals and expectations, with the hope of long-term freedom.
- Follow-up. Keep asking the person about what she told you, so she has a chance to move forward. Make them feel really cared for. It is not pleasant and we may tend to ignore or give up unconsciously.
- Pay special attention. Especially to people with disabilities or low economic means, who may be being assaulted. It also occurs in high social classes, with sufficient economic means and education; do not rule it out for these reasons.
- Ask in the absence of the aggressor. If you attend to couples and suspect violence, give them the opportunity to be able to talk about it alone, perhaps with another person who accompanies you and serves as a witness, so that they can talk without suffering bad consequences.
Text - Inés Bárcenas, María Martín-Vivar and Carlos Chiclana