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This Is the Absolute Worst Thing You Can Say to Someone Who Was a Victim of Domestic Violence

It’s scary to consider this, but you probably know at least one person who has been in a domestically abusive situation — or perhaps you’ve been in one yourself. And there’s quite a range of what’s considered to be abusive behavior. You know that no one should tolerate physical violence, but did you know emotional abuse can feel just as threatening? And for those who experience this tough situation, it can be really difficult to reach out for help.

If you have a friend or family member who was in an abusive situation, you probably don’t know what’s best to say. And what you think might be helpful to hear could actually make the abused person feel even worse. We highly suggest you heed our advice and skip some of these unhelpful phrases — and don’t worry, we have some better words you can borrow, too.

Worst: Why did it take you so long to leave?

woman sitting at the edge of the bed while her male partner looks at her

woman sitting at the edge of the bed while her male partner looks at her Saying this will make the abused person feel way worse. | iStock.com/nd3000

If domestic violence hasn’t personally affected you, it can be really hard to understand why an abused person doesn’t just leave their situation. But really, it’s quite complicated. The National Domestic Violence Hotline explains that some people who are abused don’t understand how a healthy relationship is supposed to function, or their safety could be threatened if they leave. Also, experiencing abuse in such a way can really wear on their self-esteem, making them believe part of the abuse was their fault.

Asking them why they didn’t just leave can trivialize a very complex situation. And it will also make them feel even worse, which we’re sure isn’t really your goal.

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