What Should We Say to Victims of Abuse?

When we encounter victims of abuse, we need to be prepared to support them, provide resources, and ultimately assist them in finding escape from abuse. What we say first is vital in helping victims, so we need to consider our words carefully.

Contributing Writer
Published Aug 11, 2022
What Should We Say to Victims of Abuse?

According to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.”

This number does not include the numerous children, senior citizens, and others who experience abuse of various kinds. These victims could be our loved ones, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow church members.

As believers, we are told to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).

When we encounter victims of abuse, we need to be prepared to support them, provide resources, and ultimately assist them in finding escape from abuse. Because our communication with the victim is vital in helping them, we need to consider what we say to victims.

Voice Support and Concern

Christians need to communicate their support and concern for victims. If we suspect someone is being harmed by any form of abuse (physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, or spiritual), we need to talk to the person and express our concerns.

Even if the person denies suspected abuse, believers should still communicate care for the individual, letting them know that they can trust them and come to them for help.

If the victim has already confirmed a suspicion of abuse, we need to express our willingness to help and affirm to them that they are not to blame. We should talk to them about getting out of the situation of abuse.

However, we need to stay sensitive to the situation. As Sheltering Wings wrote in their article “How To Help Someone Who Might Be A Victim Of Abuse,” People who are trying to help victims need to take the role of supporter:

“Our most well-meaning words and intentions can devastate a person whose identity has been shattered by an abuser. The best way to avoid pitfalls is to remain focused on providing comfort and support.” Therefore, we need to carefully consider our words as we seek to assist victims of abuse.

1. I Am Here for You

Part of supporting and caring for abuse victims is being there and listening to them. Individuals who are victims of abuse may deny abuse or defend their abusers, which can prove frustrating for those who are trying to help.

Victims may experience threats from their abuser, believe the abuser loves them, or assume they deserve harm, which makes them confused about the situation.

Instead of trying to figure out why abuse is happening, Christians must support and affirm that they believe the victim. Offering our support and acknowledgment of their suffering allows the victim to know they are not alone. There is someone who cares about them and can help them.

2. I Can Help You Make a Plan

In talking to victims of abuse, believers need to be prepared to give information about resources that can assist them.

Multiple websites and hotlines exist that are dedicated to assisting people in abusive situations. Compiling a list of phone numbers and local organizations before talking to a victim of abuse is something that believers should do.

These resources would help in the discussion of creating a safety plan. Depending on the type of abuse going on, these plans may look different. However, helping a victim come up with a plan of action is vital in supporting them.

The following is a sample list of organizations and websites that exist to help victims of abuse:

Believers need to invest time and energy into preparing these plans and having them ready before talking to victims about having a safety plan or plan of escape. Often, leaving victims with the job of finding these resources on their own can be dangerous.

The situation could become more violent if abusers discover that their victims are seeking help. Therefore, if we announce our willingness to make a plan, then we need to commit to finding resources and contacting the proper authorities.

3. You Have Worth as a Human Being

When individuals are victims of abuse, they sometimes wrongly believe they deserve harm or that they are worthless. Abuse of any form devalues the victim and leaves them with a damaged identity.

Followers of Jesus can speak words of life and hope into the lives of victims by telling them about the worth they have as human beings.

We can talk to victims about how God created them in His image (Genesis 1:27). They have worth and value as individuals.

The person or people who are abusing them does not define who they are or who they can be. Only God can define us because He is our Creator.

In Scripture, God says that people, including victims of abuse, are “remarkably and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, HCSB).

Nobody deserves to be abused or made to feel as if they are less than human. The Lord, the Creator of everything, made us, and He says we are special and loved.

4. I Want to Tell You about Hope and Healing in Jesus

Although I have placed this point last, I do so for emphasis. Christians need to demonstrate to victims of abuse that they genuinely care about them, not just as a “soul to save” but as a person who is hurting.

Our goal is not to dump the gospel on someone and leave them in an abusive situation. Instead, we want to see the person freed from their abuse and for them to find freedom in Jesus Christ (John 8:36).

We need to tell victims about the gospel while also demonstrating genuine love and concern (1 John 3:18).

Abuse victims regularly have a distorted view of love because of their experiences. By demonstrating Christlike love and talking to them about Jesus’ love for them, we can help them know what true love looks like.

Unlike abusers, who hurt and manipulate victims, Jesus will never abuse us. No greater love can compare to Jesus’ act of laying down His life for us so we can have eternal life (John 15:13).

He is the “gentle and humble” Savior who offers us peace and hope (Matthew 11:29; John 14:27; 1 Peter 2:24).

We can tell victims of abuse about the hope and healing found in Jesus. He accepts us as we are — no one is too broken or lost for Him.

Jesus still offers rest for our souls: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). May more believers strive to make His message known among victims of abuse.

Why Does This Matter?

As believers, we should care about individuals who are suffering abuse of any kind. When we talk to victims of abuse, we need to affirm our support and concern, show that we are there for them, express our willingness to assist them in creating a plan, tell them about their worth, and share the good news of Jesus.

Believers want to see victims set free from abuse. Thus, carefully thinking about our words is essential to ministering to hurting individuals in these situations.

For further reading:

How Should We Respond to Abuse Within Church Leadership?

The Bible and Emotional Abuse

What Does the Bible Say about Shame?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Tinnakorn Jorruang

Sophia BrickerSophia Bricker is a writer. Her mission is to help others grow in their relationship with Jesus through thoughtful articles, devotionals, and stories. She completed a BA and MA in Christian ministry, which included extensive study of the Bible and theology, and an MFA in creative writing. You can follow her blog about her story, faith, and creativity at The Cross, a Pen, and a Page.


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