Monday, July 28, 2008

Women Use Friendship to Tackle Domestic Violence

(ARA) - Whoever first said that “a friend in need is a friend indeed” certainly knew what she (or she) was talking about. Good friends encourage you to live your dreams, and stand by you through good times and bad. And, as one recent poll shows, women are most likely to confide in a friend when they are facing violence in their home.

“Women draw support from friendship on so many levels, from sharing beauty secrets and common experiences to dealing with life’s ups and downs,” says Shelley Simmons of The Body Shop, whose recent global survey revealed that 59 percent of women are most likely to confide in a friend if affected by domestic violence. “Social misconceptions about domestic violence may make women feel more comfortable confiding in a friend whom they can depend on for caring, nonjudgmental support.”

No one is certain exactly how common domestic violence is since many cases probably go unreported. The U.S. Justice Department, however, estimates the number of annual cases somewhere between 960,000 and 3 million. Across all age groups and social strata, women experiencing violence in the home are far more likely to turn to a friend for help than anyone else, including police, health care providers and support groups, The Body Shop survey shows.

“With the approach of International Friendship Day in August, it’s a great time for women to get educated on how to recognize the signs of domestic violence and what to do to help a friend going through it,” says Simmons. The Body Shop’s 2008 Stop Violence in the Home Campaign focuses on how friendship can provide a lifeline to women in crisis, and promotes education on how women can help each other if they are facing domestic violence. Also, for every “For Me, For You” Shea Lip Care Duo sold, the company will donate $9 of the purchase price towards domestic violence prevention, education and rescue.

Tell-tale signs a woman is experiencing violence in the home include:

* She has become quiet or withdrawn from friends.
* She ends phone conversations suddenly when her partner appears.
* Her friends feel unwelcome or tense when her partner is around.
* She shows signs of difficult-to-explain bruises or cuts.
* She has mentioned that her partner is possessive or jealous.
* Socially, she begins to see less of her friends.

“Once a friend confides in you about violence in her home, there are many things you can do to help her,” Simmons says.

* Be patient. Listen, but don’t judge. She must make decisions about her life in her own way and her own time.
* Don’t be critical of her partner, as this may make her feel ashamed and prevent her from confiding in you again.
* Don’t give up if you lose contact with her for a while. She may temporarily retreat.
* Tell her that the violence isn’t her fault; it’s a choice and her partner is the only one responsible for his behavior.
* Remind her that domestic violence is illegal and the police have to investigate. Encourage her to seek confidential help from the police.
* Continue to support her and don’t give up on her. You may be her only lifeline.
* Finally, if you suspect she is in immediate danger, you have no choice but to go to the police. Saving her life trumps saving the friendship.

“You may not know someone who is dealing with domestic violence, but it’s still possible to help those who are,” Simmons says.

First, education is key. Teach your teen girls that domestic violence is never acceptable. Second, be the best friend you can be; you never know what emotional challenges a friend faces. Simply by sharing love, support and fun times, you could be giving support to a friend who needs it, even if you don’t know it yet.

Finally, support causes that raise funds for victims of domestic violence. “Not only does buying a ‘For Me, For You’ Shea Lip Care Duo support efforts to end domestic violence, it’s also a great way for someone to show a friend she cares and give her a gift that will make her feel good about herself,” Simmons says.

To learn more about how you can support the fight against domestic violence, or to find a store of The Body Shop near you, visit www.thebodyshop.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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