What You Can Do to Help Victims of Domestic Violence

By Nancy Flory Published on October 4, 2018

She was shot and left for dead. Eight months after she left her husband because he beat her, he found her. Again. Ruth Glenn was married for 13 years to an abuser. After she left, he stalked and harassed her. After six months, he kidnapped her at gunpoint and held her hostage. Two months later he found her again.

This time, he wasn’t going to let her go. 

Now President

But she didn’t die. Now the president and CEO of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), Glenn wants to help other victims of domestic violence. 

One in four women will be the victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. Glenn said in an interview with The Stream that domestic violence is the need for someone to have power and control over someone else. It’s when one person has control over someone else and takes away their autonomy and the ability to be themselves.

“You will begin to see that domestic violence is a pattern,” she explains. “You begin to see patterns that allow a person to continue to have control over someone — you know, slowly but surely taking money from them, isolating them from their family or others, beginning battering. … It’s not just a pattern, [it’s] also the unpredictability that allows them to do that. You never know when they’re going to strike.” The violence isn’t only expressed in  physical harm, but in any means someone uses to maintain control over their victim.

Glenn said that there are signs that a person is experiencing domestic violence:

  • They don’t have autonomy, particularly in a new relationship; 
  • The relationship is moving very fast; 
  • The person says, “I don’t know if I can,” and must ask their partner for permission to do something; 
  • They have too many absences from social events or work;
  • They have a change in demeanor; and
  • They disappear for two to three days at a time.

“So, there’s a variety of things that are very telling, that can tell us whether someone is being hurt in a relationship. It’s not always about the black eye, it’s not always about the broken wrist.”

The National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

NCADV birthed the 1981 Day of Unity, a day for awareness about domestic violence. It gradually grew into something bigger. Now, October is the National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. NCADV recently held their annual conference on domestic violence. The conference allows advocates, survivors and law enforcement to understand how they might continue to spread awareness about domestic violence. 

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People can help those in domestic violence situations. “The first thing is, understand that victims cannot leave until they’re ready to leave,” Glenn says. “The best thing that we can do is say, “I think I know what’s going on for you, you don’t even have to respond. But what I want you to know is, when you’re ready to talk about it or you want some help or you want to do something differently, I’m here for you.'”

Those who offer to help must be prepared to do so. They should provide a list of resources or other helpful tools. “It’s not as simple as saying, ‘I’ll be there for you,’ it’s ‘I’ll be there for you … with at least some things that might help you and I’ll get you through this.'”

What You Should Know

Glenn wants people to know just how common domestic violence is in a relationship. “Domestic violence is far more pervasive than we think it is.” Part of the problem is that many people believe domestic violence doesn’t happen very often. If it does, people can’t understand why victims stay.

“A victim in that relationship or that situation has to think what’s the safest for her,” says Glenn. There are many reasons leaving isn’t safe for many victims. “She may have three kids … or she may have a job that’s depending on her staying where she’s at. Or, her family may have put pressure on her to stay, so she’s really trying to figure out where else she can go. She may have been afraid to call the police. … And afraid she won’t be believed.” 

“I want people to understand how real it is when a survivor makes the choice not to leave. It can be very deadly and dangerous. You’ll hear about perpetrators finding someone later and everybody goes, ‘well, why didn’t she get away?’ Well, sometimes we do get away.”

She did. And she doesn’t mind sharing her story. “Yes, it’s very personal to me, but I don’t mind the storytelling. I think that the more we tell our stories and use our voices and speak up, the more we can make change.”


If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. For more information about domestic abuse, this link suggested by a couple of young Stream readers offers further resources.

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