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Responding to Disclosure of Domestic Violence

What to say to the child who has been exposed to domestic violence:

  • I believe you.
  • I’m glad you told me. Sometimes people are afraid to talk about it.
  • No one deserves to be hurt.
  • The abuse is not your fault.
  • Let’s talk about what you can do when something happens. Is there a safe place you can go (bedroom, neighbor’s house, outside)?

What not to say to the child who has been exposed to domestic violence:

  • Your dad shouldn’t do things like that. It’s not nice.
  • What did your mom do before the fight started?
  • Did your dad do something to hurt you?
  • I’ll keep your secret.

What to say to the adult victim of domestic violence:

  • I believe you.
  • I’m sorry this happened to you.
  • No one deserves to be hurt.
  • I’m glad you told me. Sometimes people are afraid to talk about it.
  • I am afraid for your safety and the safety of your children.
  • Let’s make sure you have a safety plan for the next time something happens.
  • Help is available. I can give you the number of the local domestic violence program if you’d like to talk to someone about it.

What not to say to the adult victim of domestic violence:

  • What did you do to cause it?
  • You must have provoked it.
  • You haven’t left the relationship—it can’t be that bad or you must like it.
  • How can you stay in a situation that is hurting your children so much?
  • You’re co-dependent.
  • You must leave or end the relationship.
  • I hate men who beat women.
  • What is it about your culture that makes women “take it” from men?
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