How to support a woman living with violence

A recent Canadian Women's Foundation study finds that two-thirds of Canadians know a woman who has experienced physical or sexual abuse. Every six days, another woman in Canada is murdered by her current or former partner. Every night, more than 3,300 women (along with 3,000 children) are forced to sleep in a women's shelter or a transition house because it's not safe for them at home.

If you know someone who is experiencing violence, here's what you can do to help:

Be supportive. Listen and offer nonjudgmental support. Tell her the violence is not her fault, that she deserves to be treated with respect, and that you don't blame her (even if she decides to stay).

Learn more about relationship violence. Recognize the warning signs of abuse and understand why many don't press charges against their abusers.

Be aware of the risks. Be careful about how you communicate with the victim, since many abusers closely monitor their victims.

Ensure your own safety. Never confront an abuser or put yourself in danger.

Find resources. Before speaking to a victim, get phone numbers of local shelters, crisis lines, YWCA or agencies offering specialized services.

Choose the right time and place. Be thoughtful about where and when to discuss your concerns. Choose a private place where you will not be overheard or interrupted.

Voice your concerns. Be sensitive. Don't give details about what you have witnessed, as she may feel the need to give excuses or deny what happened. Explain why you want to support her and tell her you're ready to listen whenever she is.

Put her in charge. Explore options with her and don't try to take over or tell her what to do. If she isn't sure, simply encourage her to talk and listen without judgement.

If someone is in immediate danger, call 9-1-1. You can help end violence against women. Throughout the month of April, the Canadian Women's Foundation initiative called the Annual Campaign to End Violence Against Women is raising awareness – and is also raising funds to support local emergency shelters and other programs in your community.

Find out how you can help at


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