What Not To Say To An Abuse Victim

Have you ever had a friend you knew was being abused, and they seemed hurt or upset by your words of encouragement or advice? Perhaps you chose one of the following phrases that are truly What Not To Say To An Abuse Victim. Well meaning friends and family can often create even more problems by saying things that they believe are wise, yet in fact hurt the victim more. In an effort to educate and help you know how to help instead of hinder, we have decided to share with you some things abuse victims have said they wished you wouldn’t say.

what not to say to an abuse victim


Why don’t you just leave? While it may look simple to you on the outside, you cannot possibly understand how an abuser works in each individual victims life. There could be threats to their life, the lives of their children or even other family members. There are financial factors to consider, kids adjustments, work place problems and overall safety. Packing a bag and walking out the door is rarely that simple.

You’re smarter than this. By insinuating they are being stupid, you are likely only enforcing the lies and verbal assault the victim is already experiencing at home. While staying in an abusive relationship isn’t smart, there are many factors to consider and insinuating they are being stupid is only adding to their lack of self esteem.

Maybe you just need to go to couples therapy. While there are many abusers who can reform after counseling and proper help, suggesting that all a victim needs is a bit of counseling is a slap in the face. Abuse victims often are unable to seek counseling with their abuser simply because the abuser doesn’t believe they are in the wrong.

Maybe you need to work on you and what kind of wife you are. This is heard in a lot of circles that believe changing your attitude and actions can fix an abuser. While there are rare instances in which this can work, the very idea of suggesting a victim is bringing on their abuse is asinine. Be careful how you speak regarding their own faults. While they may not be perfect, they are still a victim of uncalled for and unnecessary abuse.

Have you thought about losing weight or changing your appearance? Some victims find that their abuse comes in the form of verbal assaults against their physical appearance. If your abuser/spouse/partner is continuously telling you that you are not physically attractive to them, or that you disgust them – it is not your fault. While many individuals may truly no longer be as attractive as they were at the beginning of a relationship, verbal assaults regarding appearance are abuse. Changing how you look will not fix the abusers problems nor protect you from other forms of abuse in the future.

You need to get right with God or go back to church. While many people of faith believe that these things can make positive changes in ones life, it will not immediately change an abuser. Being abused is not a punishment from God. It is not a way that God is getting your attention and trying to draw you back to him. If anything, abuse is a tool of Satan to beat you down. While faith in God or other religious things may help you to heal and find peace, it will not fix your abuser nor should it be used as a reason you are being abused.

If you don’t leave now I won’t be here to help if that happens again. This threat tactic is often taken by those closest to the victim. In an effort to rush them out of the abuse, they often make threats of their own. What often happens instead, is the victim files that information away. When they are at rock bottom and need their friends or family help the most, that conversation will come to mind reminding them they truly don’t have anyone in their corner. By making threats of no longer being a friend or helping in the future, you are becoming the abuser yourself.

As an outsider your heart breaks for your loved ones who are experiencing abuse. Although you may not understand the how or why of the situation, the victim needs to know that you are there for them. The best thing you can do is to know what not to say to an abuse victim, and to always be there letting them know when they are ready, you are willing to help.


  1. As a *survivor* I choose not to use the word victim. Thanks for your post.

  2. This is a great post, sometimes we say the things we shouldn’t, but at times it seems to be the right thing to say. I do know that the one getting the abuse always feels it’s their fault and they shouldn’t feel that way at all!!

  3. You know one that’s really hard? When they don’t even believe you that it happened because they didn’t see anything …

  4. nicolthepickle says

    The best thing to say is, “I believe you” . It’s not always wise to try and fix things.

  5. Elva Roberts says

    Thank you for a thoughtful and insightful post. As a friend and a relative of women who have been or are being abused, it is very difficult to find words that will not condemn but help. Thank you so much for your excellent advice.

Speak Your Mind