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Bystander Tools


Approximately 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence at some time in her life. This statistic holds true regardless of demographics, culture and socio-economic status, therefore, we all know someone who has been or will be affected by domestic violence, and we are all positioned to be bystanders that can have a positive impact in a victim’s life and journey toward safety. Many victims and survivors of domestic violence may never seek out the services of a domestic violence program, for a variety of reasons. However, victims and survivors do seek out help with individuals they trust as they navigate their communities, and when they are able to maintain contact with family, friends, and community-based providers. Find out how you can you support individuals impacted by domestic violence in your life.

Family and Friends

It can be incredibly difficult to witness a family member or friend’s abusive relationship. We want the best for our loved ones, and want them to live safe and free from violence in their relationships. Our good intentions may be to encourage the victim to leave and end the relationship with their abusive partner. However, it is critical that we learn more about domestic violence to understand the dynamics and risk factors our loved ones may be experiencing. It is also important to learn how we can help them stay safe even when they are not ready to leave, and especially when they do leave. Here are a few things to keep in mind when helping a loved one, but please read about the Impact of Domestic Violence to get more information.

  • Share your concern for your loved one’s safety
  • Remember to keep conversations between you and the victim private. Victims will only seek out help if they feel safe and secure in sharing the information.
  • Let the individual know that you have resources and information you would like to share. Do not be surprised or offended if the individual does not accept the help at first.
  • Take the victim’s lead. Victims of domestic violence are at greatest risk for experiencing harm and death when they leave the abusive partner.
  • Be patient as it can take many victims several attempts to leave an abusive partner. In many cases this is due to the level of control that the perpetrator has gained over the victim through their tactics of abuse which limit the victims access to resources
  • Get support for yourself. It can be taxing providing support to a loved one experiencing domestic violence. You are concerned and afraid for them, you also may get frustrated with the slow progress, and it may affect your relationships with the individuals involved. Contact the domestic violence program in your area, or call the Statewide 24Hour hotline to talk with a counselor as you support your loved ones through this process.

Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers are in a prime position to address domestic violence. Victims and survivors of domestic violence frequently seek out healthcare services whether in hospitals, health clinics, or with private family physicians. Victims may access medical care as a result of immediate injuries related to violence, to address chronic symptoms that may be the impact of ongoing abuse, as well as to address preventative and wellness care needs. Doctors and nurses have a great opportunity to educate their patients about domestic violence and the impact it can have on an individual’s health and wellbeing, as well as to screen and assess their patients for potential and ongoing domestic violence. Futures Without Violence is a national violence prevention organization that has made one of its initiatives to focus on domestic violence and healthcare. Follow the link to learn more about the impact of domestic violence on an individual’s health, to find tools to enhance your healthcare organization’s response to domestic violence, as well to learn about further training opportunities for the healthcare community.

Futures Without Violence Health Initiative   

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselors

It is important to acknowledge that substance use and mental illness do not cause domestic violence. However, when there is substance use and/or mental health present in a domestic violence situation, it is important that providers are aware of the risk factors that may put a victim in escalating danger whether the victim or perpetrator is the individual dealing with mental illness and/or substance abuse.


Many of us think about domestic violence as happening at home and behind closed doors. This is certainly where it typically begins and escalates, however, a great deal of domestic violence incidents occur outside the home in public places. One such place is the victim’s place of employment. It is not uncommon for perpetrators of domestic violence to use the victim’s workplace as an additional location to further their control and intimidation over the victim. Because places of employment usually provide some physical separation for the victim from the perpetrators, this creates opportunities for victims to obtain information, resources, and to connect with necessary providers to increase their safety and support.

  • Identify local services that can support the efforts of your HR and/or EAP programs
  • Create safety policies to address domestic violence in the workplace
  • Make brochures and information for hotlines and local services visible in rest rooms, waiting areas, and in supervising personnel offices
  • Organize lunch and learn events to increase your employees’ awareness and capacity to become active bystanders
  • Support victims’ safety planning strategies related to the workshop, and the victim’s ability to get to and from work.

Read about the NJ Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act  to learn about the family leave protections available to working victims and survivors in New Jersey .

Workplaces Respond to Domestic and Sexual Violence: A National Resource Center

Clergy and Faith Leaders

Religious and spiritual communities can be a tremendous resource and source of support for individuals impacted by domestic violence. Clergy, faith leaders and educators can work together to create an atmosphere where individuals and families can learn about the values found in healthy relationships, and seek support to address unhealthy or abusive relationships.

  • Offer sermons that educate congregations around topics that including healthy relationships, bystander intervention, signs of abuse, safety and accountability.
  • Ongoing healthy relationship and bystander education taught with youth groups, women’s groups and men’s groups.
  • Display brochures to local domestic violence agencies in restrooms, waiting areas, and staff’s offices.
  • Offer staff domestic violence training opportunities to enhance faith and community leaders’ skills in their ability to identify and respond to domestic violence. Learn more about what your faith community can do to enhance its response to domestic violence at the FaithTrust Institute.  

Educators and Coaches

Educators and coaches are in prime positions to be influential in a student or athlete’s understanding of healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships. Through ongoing education and awareness activities schools and youth-based programs can enhance their response to dating and domestic violence
  • Healthy relationship education for all students in dating and domestic violence prevention efforts as mandated through the dating violence prevention education requirement for grades 7-12 (P.L. 2011, Chapter 64) (N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.23a, 18A:37-33 et.al) enacted on May 4, 2011
  • Support students’ and athletes’ leadership in addressing dating violence prevention
  • Train faculty and staff to understand the signs of abuse and strategies for prevention.
  • Provide parents education and information related to healthy relationship education Go to Futures Without Violence Start Strong Program to learn more about how you can educate and engage youth to influence healthy relationships  
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