Abuse and Harmful Behavior

How to Stop Abuse and Harmful Behavior

The first step to resolving abuse and harmful behavior is accountability. Accountability helps steer people away from unhealthy, abusive choices. It is not easy for an abuser to stop abusive behavior, and it will require a serious commitment to change.

Few people think they know an abuser but statistically, we are likely to know some in our own circles–friends, family, colleagues, or others. Sometimes we can notice someone treating their spouse or partner in an uncomfortable way–this may be a red flag to keep in mind. When they are alone behind closed doors, it may be worse. 

What can you do?

Draw attention to it: Point out the behavior that you feel may be abuse or harmful behavior toward others.

  • “I feel that it’s really disrespectful when you do those things.” 
  • “Did you mean to be so rough?”

Tell them what you think: allow them to understand that you are ready to establish boundaries for certain unacceptable behavior.

  • “This makes me really uncomfortable. It’s not right.” 
  • “I’m surprised to see you act this way. I feel you’re better than that.”
  • “I care about you, but I won’t tolerate this dynamic if you’re abusive.”

Offer suggestions or solutions: Identify channels of improvement and point them to resources or ideas on how to change.

  • “Kids learn from their parents. Is this how you want your kid to behave?” 
  • “How would you feel if your child chose someone who abused them?”
  • “I think you should reach out to a hotline or this agency I know of, and discuss some of your actions if you want a happier relationship.”

If they demonstrate criminal behavior, tell them so: Often, both sides in an abusive relationship may not be aware of laws for abuse.

  • “Domestic violence is a crime. You could be arrested for this.”
  • “You could end up in jail if you don’t find a way to deal with your problems. Then what would happen to you and your family?”

Will it make a difference?

The point of intervening in this is to stop violence, abuse and harmful behavior. We may not get the results we desire, as people must make the decisions themselves to change. However, intervening is a critical tool for supporting your peers thrive. Silence can often come across as condoning such behavior. The sooner you intervene, the sooner they may seek help.