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Talking to Someone About their Abusive Behavior

No one wants to imagine that someone they care about is hurting another person. We’ve learned from the #MeToo movement and from our work with survivors that abuse, coercion, and control are incredibly common and that people who cause harm can be the same people we love and care about. This can be hard to reconcile, but we’ve learned that people are not just one thing.

People who are abusive are not only made up of their bad deeds, just as non-abusive people are not only comprised of the good stuff. Acknowledging this is not easy, but it can help you understand how someone you care about can do harmful things and still be worthy of love and support. And the reality is, if we are going to end domestic and sexual violence, we must figure out how to talk to people who cause harm, too.

Taking the time to acknowledge that what you’re seeing in someone’s relationship is not ok or is abusive can be an incredibly powerful action. Simply saying: “Hey that’s not cool,” or “I don’t like how you are treating them,” can be the first step in helping people do and love better.

Looking for other tangible things to say to someone who is harming their partner? We created these conversation cards to help you talk with a person in your life who is struggling in their relationship, who isn’t their best self, and who has the will to change. You can print them yourself or purchase printed copies from our online store.

Image of a cloud with the text: "How's Your Relationship? Conversations with someone about their abusive behavior."

Feeling uneasy about reaching out to someone who has hurt someone else? Ask yourself: How would you want to be treated if you caused harm? You can use the same advice we gave earlier on supporting someone in an abusive relationship: ask a question, listen up, and stay connected. Many of these strategies are also helpful for conversations with someone who has caused harm.

Check out our Friends & Family Guide to learn more. Or, download a printable copy of the Friends & Family Guide.