Resources for Friends and Family

Safe Haven Ministries often receives calls from concerned family members or friends of individuals whom they suspect are experiencing abuse. The following represent frequently asked questions and the answers we commonly provide. Several of following resources are excerpted from “The Healing Path,” A Guide for Survivors of Domestic Abuse, published by the Kent County Domestic Violence Community Coordinated Response Team.

What Is Domestic Abuse?

Domestic abuse is a pattern of controlling behaviors that may include physical assaults, sexual assaults, emotional abuse, isolation, threats, stalking, manipulation, and/or intimidation. These behaviors are used by one person in an intimate relationship to control the other. The partners may be married, engaged, separated, or dating; heterosexual or gay; living together or not.

Abuse can happen to anyone regardless of someone’s religion (or lack of), gender identity or expression, age, race or nationality, cultural background, class, ability, and/or education.

More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime (2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Approximately 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 7 men in the U.S. have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime (2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

How Can I Learn More?

Several times a year, Safe Haven offers a Domestic Violence Seminar for Friends and Families of Victims/Survivors. This seminar is open to friends and family members of someone who is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence. The event is free and open to the public.

During this three hour session, you will learn:
  • about the dynamics and effects of domestic abuse
  • how domestic violence can affect someone across their lifespan
  • ways to provide ongoing support for someone who is or has experienced domestic violence
  • ways to practice self-care and ways to avoid secondary trauma
Recommended for anyone who:
  • wants to learn more about the epidemic of abuse
  • has a friend or family member who is experiencing or has experienced domestic abuse
  • is interested in learning more about how they can support someone experiencing abuse

Examples of Abusive Behaviors

Emotional/Verbal/Psychological Abuse

  • Ridicules opinions/beliefs
  • Belittles or puts down
  • Continually criticizes or calls names
  • Humiliates in public or private
  • Threatens harms or suicide if relationship ends
  • Lies/contradicts, plays mind games
  • Withholds access/information about family finances
  • Destroys property or threatens to kill pets

Physical Abuse

  • Pushes, kicks, bites
  • Hits, slaps, punches
  • Throws objects or destroys property
  • Locks partner out of home
  • Refuses to help when partner is ill or injured
  • Uses weapons against partner
  • Abandons partner in dangerous situations
  • Threatens physical abuse

Sexual Abuse

  • Forces unwanted sexual acts on partner
  • Accuses partner of cheating
  • Insists partner dress in a sexual manner
  • Constantly criticizes partner sexually
  • Endangers partner’s sexual health with unprotected sex
  • Sabotaging forms of birth control
  • Reproductive coercion, including forcing partner to have unwanted children
  • Infecting partner with a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

Spiritual Abuse

  • Quotes scripture to justify abusive, dominating, or other oppressive behaviors
  • Forces partner to violate religious beliefs
  • Prevents partner from attending church

Digital Abuse

  • Constantly checking texts, emails, and/or social media accounts without permission
  • Sending or distributing sexual photos of partner
  • Using GPS or other electronic devices to track whereabouts
  • Recording telephone conversations


How Can I Support A Friend/Family Member?


This may seem overly simple, but someone experiencing abuse often has the power and control taken away from them. Sometimes, the best way to help them reclaim that autonomy and control is by asking them what you can do to help support them. This gives them the opportunity to let you know what kind of support they need and what that support looks like to them.

Additional Ways to Support Someone Experiencing Abuse

  • Believe their story
  • Respect their choices, even if that means not immediately leaving an abuser
  • Offer resources such as Safe Haven’s hotline: 616-452-6664
  • Check in on the person
  • Be a constant support system; don’t offer ultimatums if they aren’t ready to leave their abuser
  • Offer to sit with them as they call a domestic violence hotline
  • Let them know they can come to you
  • Don’t ask questions that puts the blame on them (i.e. “Why haven’t you left?”; “Why did you say/do that if you knew he/she would…”)

What about Couples/Marriage Counseling?

When abuse is present in a relationship, couples and marriage counseling is not recommended for several reasons, primarily because a person who is being abused may not be safe in a counseling session for fear of retribution from the abuser.

Abusers will often manipulate a couples counseling session to put the blame on the victim. Moreover, couples or marriage counseling can often escalate or intensify the violence the victim is experiencing.

Counseling for Abusers

Treatment for batterers, such as a Batterer Intervention Program (BIP), is often done in a group setting. Groups teach batterers how physical, emotional, and sexual abuse hurts their partners and their children. Groups also hold batterers accountable for their behavior and provide a setting for positive change. They cannot guarantee change, but it is possible for abuse to be un-learned.

Where to Get Help

Domestic Abuse Providers in Kent County, MI

Safe Haven Ministries:  616-452-6664

YWCA West Central Michigan: 616-451-2744

Batterer Intervention Services in Kent County, MI

YWCA Men Choosing Alternatives to Violence: 616-459-4652

Men’s Resource Center: 616-456-1178


Recommended Reading

Family and Friends Guide to Domestic Violence: How to Listen, Talk and Take Action when someone you care about is being abused
Weiss, Elaine

To Be an Anchor in the Storm: A Guide for Families and Friends of Abused Women
Brewster, Susan