“Stay with them”: Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence Share Insights on How Friends and Family Can Help

Stay-With-Them-Web.PNGThis resource amplifies the voices of survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) by sharing their advice to family and friends of those who are experiencing IPV.

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Read our companion resource focused on advice to those who are experiencing IPV -“There’s a way out”: Insights from Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence




The Learning Network in partnership with the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative with Vulnerable Populations (CDHPIVP) is honoured to amplify the voices of survivors and share their advice to family and friends of those who are experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Each piece of advice is directly informed by what survivors shared, and quotes from survivors are included here.

We recognize that responses to IPV must be informed by survivors. We appreciate the bravery of survivors in sharing their declarations and continuing to advocate for change.

“It’s like being a prisoner on a desert island and seeing a boat. And the boat comes really, really, really close to you but then it goes…  And every time the boat gets really, really close to you, you try to think of a way of sending a signal. But you got to be careful because if you send a signal, he’s there watching you and he knows when you're sending a signal.”

More than 80 survivors across Canada shared their knowledge in interviews conducted as part of the CDHPIVP. CDHPIVP researchers interviewed women who had experienced IPV to learn how they managed the abuse and violence in their relationships, how they sought safety, and what advice they would give to others experiencing violence. The survivors were no longer in an abusive relationship, felt they were safe when they participated in the interview, and were no longer involved in any criminal proceedings.

Women interviewed came from diverse communities and experiences including:

  • Living in rural, remote, and northern regions
  • Immigrant or refugee status
  • Indigenous

The advice shared is broadly applicable to survivors of all gender identities although those interviewed exclusively identified as women. Sharing the voices of women survivors of IPV is important given the high rate at which women, especially marginalized women, face IPV and the barriers they encounter in seeking support. We recognize the necessity of and look forward to efforts to center the voices of survivors of all identities.

Please share this document widely and join us in preventing IPV and intimate femicide.


Website: https://www.vawlearningnetwork.ca/
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Website:  http://www.cdhpi.ca/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/cdhpi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CREVAWC


Advice from Survivors to Family and Friends of Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence

  1. Believe her! Tell her it is not her fault.
  2. Open a space to talk about what is happening.
  3. Listen and respond without pressuring or judging her.
  4. Offer to help while following her lead and guidance.
  5. Stay with her and be patient.
  6. Find organizations in your community who support people experiencing violence and seek their advice.


1. Believe her! Tell her it is not her fault.

  • “What my mom could do and maybe what I was hoping she’d do is believe me by not minimizing my experience and just provide a listening ear.”
  • “Nice people can be abusive. It was her brother, and you don’t want to acknowledge that someone that you love or care about or is a family member can do those horrible, horrible things... I think you want to see him as the person that you know him as. But it doesn’t mean that you need to hate him or say he’s a horrible person. But it doesn’t help to allow him to continue abusive behaviours.”
  • “To the friends and family – just stick by her. It’s not her fault.”

2. Open a space to talk about what is happening.

  • “I think the main issue is to offer space. Once you’ve been on that side of it [experiencing abuse], you hear people ask: ‘Tell me more about that? What do you mean he got mad and threw something? What happened?’ Maybe ask open-ended questions that gives them the opportunity to talk about it [what happened], even though they may not think that it's abusive. Point out: you deserve better than that, it’s not okay, and you don't have to tolerate that behavior.”
  • “If they know that somebody’s in a domestic violence relationship… they should intervene at least quietly by privately asking if that person is okay. And if not, try to offer support to them… try to get them out of that house or the other person out of the house.”
  •  “They knew – his friends said what he was doing, and they said they heard me crying in the background telling him to stop. They could have stopped by. [It] is a very small town, they know when someone is gone and not only that, they could have saw me walking down the side of the road and stopped by and offered me some resources and not tried to intimidate me.”

3. Listen and respond without pressuring or judging her.

  • “Not giving too much advice, as much as it is good in a way that it gives structure. Sometimes I'm already in fight or flight mode. I'm already in attack mode. I'm nervous and anxious. So sometimes, just holding that space is so important. The person is not in my shoes to understand what it is that I'm doing so [they should] hold space and make sure I feel safe. Safety is a big one.”
  • “It’s so easy to sit back and pass judgement on other people but the reality of it is that this woman – even though she’s being abused – really loves the man, which is so difficult.”
  • “I needed somebody that I could trust that was going to support me and not criticize me for what I was thinking, what I was doing to help myself. Gentle acknowledgements like you can go over to the domestic violence centre; you know I'm always here; or yes, you could hide your car in my garage. [Acknowledgements] without the criticism of: ‘What are you going to do about this? How long is this going to go on for?’”

4. Offer to help while following her lead and guidance.

  • Sometimes the other person can help to do very practical stuff that you might not think of doing because you’re in the situation. If you need to go to the police and file a restraining order or something, as a friend you can recall things – like take screenshots of text messages, record phone conversations, whatever evidence they can show to the police.”
  • “Just do what the abused person is saying. If the abused person was saying do not phone me at this time or do not text me or don’t call the police or stop posting pictures of me on [social media], do what they say.”
  • “Bullying a bully isn't going to work either. I couldn't afford to have people that would say things like ‘I'll just kick his ass’ or ‘I'll just have a chat with him’ or... don't do that. Please don't say that because he's not going to do anything to you; that plays out badly for me.”
  • “People... especially somebody that cares about you, wants to protect you... but it can't just be a spur of the moment thing. I kept saying to my friends, you can't be one more thing I have to manage. I have enough right now with him. He's all I could manage. And I can't now afford to manage you.”

5. Stay with her and be patient.

  • "Be ready for her to not listen to you. I wanted to stay in that relationship. I was getting something out of it that I kept going back for even if it was warped. She may not listen, but as long as you’re supportive and listen and have resources available, you’re doing a good thing.”
  • “Offer emotional support and keep checking on that person because for me, it took a long time to heal from these relationships.”
  • “Stay with them as long as you can just to ensure their safety and to offer that emotional support and to reassure them.”
  • “Remember it’s much more difficult for this woman because she’s emotionally involved. She loves him. Even though you’re giving really good advice, it might be difficult for her to take it, because it’s not black or white for her. There are so many grey areas and for a third party it’s black and white—you either leave and live in peace or stay and be abused. It’s so clear for someone on the outside. But for someone on the inside, she’s going to miss him. I would just say to a third party, be forth right, be honest but also know that it’s not going to be so easy as just packing a suitcase and leaving, right? There’s a lot of emotions involved.

6. Find organizations in your community who support people experiencing violence and seek their advice.

  • Educate yourself on the resources, reach out yourself. There are so many resources you can call and say, ‘I have a friend who’s in an abusive relationship, she’s talking to me and I want to give the best information possible.’”
  • “Maybe they can find something, gather resources pertaining to a particular person. Because it’s going to be really hard for them to do it themselves without getting caught.”
  • “Back then I thought ‘oh they must not like me, it must be because of this and that.’ But it was because they were scared of him and they didn’t want anything to do with me because they didn’t want to be involved in any wrath that he gave out. I didn’t realize that at the time but I think everyone was just quite scared of him. So, I guess that puts people in an uncomfortable situation but there would have been, you know, a professional that they could have talked to about it.”


Recognizing different forms of violence

Identifying warning signs

  • iDetermine – Led by The Redwood
    Do you feel fearful or unsafe of a current or ex-partner? Are you worried that your relationship is not healthy? If your relationship does not feel right, you may be confused about what to do. This website can help you determine your next steps.
  • Taking Care of Each Other’s Spirit - Kanawayhitowin
    The Kanawayhitowin initiative supports the end of violence against Indigenous women by raising awareness of the signs of abuse in communities.

Making a safety plan

Supporting Friends


Click here for supports