Empowering vs rescuing


Rescuing is different from Empowering.

Rescuing assumes that victims of domestic violence are unable to help themselves, and puts us in a position of trying to do everything for them. Rescuing includes:

  • Pushing forward while the victim pulls back
  • Feeling that you’re doing all the work
  • Irritability
  • Making all the suggestions regarding options
  • Making numerous phone calls for a survivor, especially if they have not asked for that help

Stepping into the role of a rescuer creates a power dynamic with the survivor that threatens to recreate the power dynamic in the abusive relationship the victim is attempting to escape. Additionally, rescuing is physically and emotionally exhausting for us. People cannot be saved – they have to save themselves. Acting as a rescuer is guaranteed to end in disappointment.

Empowering assumes that victims of domestic violence have the ability to help themselves. Place yourself in a position to provide the support victims need to improve their own situation. Empowering includes:

  • Validating the survivor’s thoughts and feelings
  • Providing the survivor information, but allowing them to make their own decisions
  • Not taking survivor decisions personally
  • Supporting decisions you may not agree with

Empowerment theory, the cornerstone of the anti-violence movement, states that to end abuse and injustice, oppressed people must reclaim their power by acknowledging and acting upon the rights and responsibilities:

  • Self-determination
  • Asking for help
  • Access to information necessary to make choices
  • Ability to take action in accordance with choices made
  • Ability to accept consequences arising from choices made

You can bring emotional support, an understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, and knowledge of the available community and social services. Survivors bring strength, the desire to change their situation, and a unique set of skills and experiences. Together you can find a path for the survivor to follow out of abuse and towards a safe and stable future.