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If You Are a Third Party to Abuse...

Kathryn Patricelli, MA Updated: Mar 16th 2016

If you witness abuse or are aware of someone who has been abused, you may not be sure what you should or shouldn’t do to help. The following list describes things you can do to help.


  • You can report the abuse to appropriate government organizations.
    • If you are a mandated abuse reporter because of your professional role with respect to the abuse victim, you have no choice but to report the abuse to the appropriate state agency. It is your professional and ethical responsibility to do so and if you do not, you may be held liable.
    • If you are not a mandated reporter, you can still can choose to do so by contacting the police or the relevant government agency. A list of protective service agencies by state is provided as an appendix to this document


  • Encourage the victim to seek help (e.g., from the police, a lawyer, the courts, an abuse shelter, etc.)


  • You can listen to the victim and be a shoulder for them to vent upon. Talk with them and help them understand the nature of what abuse is and that it is happening to them. They may be in denial and not realize that what they're experiencing is not safe or normal or necessary. Having someone to talk to or assist in locating resources can be a huge comfort, especially when the person listens and does not judge the situation.


  • You can offer support and assistance in helping the victim to make a plan for exiting the abuse. Give them numbers for local resources like domestic violence shelters. Help them to learn how to file a restraining order with the local court.


  • Resist the urge to pass angry judgment, as this may turn the victim away from confiding in you. However, do feel free to label abuse as abuse, and to encourage the victim to seek out help.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Mental Abuse from the elderly - Mr. Third Party - Jan 5th 2010

I have a friend that lives with his aunt & uncle. They adopted him a long time ago. He has had a rough life. He was in an accident that left him partially disabled, and he has Diabetes. They tell him that he's not sick that it's all in his head. I was with him when he had his blood sugar checked, and it's was 8x above normal. When they go to the store, they don't buy him anything he can eat, plus his cousin, told him some time after his accident, that he should have do everyone a favor and die. I am witness to thier verbal bashing. He holds his ground, but recently, I think it's all getting to him. Talking about killing himself, or them. I know about suicide, because I attempted it myself. A true victim of suicide never tells anyone. I think it's a cry for help. What can be done?

My son that has MS - - Sep 1st 2009

My son who is 33 had an argument with his wife and he left and went to a safe place. At this time he told the person he was with that his wife mentally and physically abuses him. I thought this for a while but was not sure. He says she kicks the cane from up under him and shoved him around. When we had him away and went to get his medicine the wife would not give it to the CNA or his sister. He says his wife said,"I can get away with it because your a black man and I am white". When we got ready to go with the police to get his medicine the people from his churc had talked with his wife and took him back to his house. I need to get him out of there, but what can I do as a mother? What are my rights? I talked to one of his worker's and they told me that they had suggested for him to move away on several occasions. He has been so controled and maliminated to the point that he is afraid to set out. We tried to get him a checking account of his own, but we could not because she has overdrawn so much it has messed him up. No one seems to take this serious because he is male. What do I do?

Birch Tree Communities and patient sexual abuse. - Creaped OUT in Nevada - May 22nd 2009

I have a family member that works as a counselor for Birch Tree Communities,  a mental health rehabilitaion center for people recovering from a mental illness, in Johnson Co., Arkansas. She has been having a sexual relationship with a patient that was sent there by court order, with a 5 year sentence. She has been warned several times to stop the inappropriate relationship, but the warnings are falling on deaf ears. She meets with the patient not only at the hospital during her shift but after hours when he has "leave time" and she picks him up and takes him to a motel that SHE pays for.  The boss that is giving her the warnings is obviously not caring enough herself about the behavior that there have been several warnings instead of 1 FIRING! And so when she makes the comment below about  it being nothing, she really feels that way.

When I mention the seriousness of her actions she only tells me, "that what she is doing, is nothing, compared to the other staff at the hospital and the patients. Patients are being abused by the doctors and nurses and the staff (counselors, supervisors, and attendants) are being abused sexually by the more aggressive patients". What the hell can you say to that?

What my moral concern here is, THIS MAN IS SICK!!! And regardless of why he is there or who put him there, she is in a position of authority over this man and other patients. She is literally, assualting and taking advantage of this man and feels no sence of remorse whatsoever. I am starting to doubt her stability also.

And Legally!!! What about LEGALLY? Can she be held responsible in CRIMINAL Court and Civil Court for doing this to a patient, just as if it were happening in an emergency room at a trama center?

If anyone has the answer to that question I would sure appreciate the feedback or comments. 

Creaped OUT in Nevada 

Editor's Note: If there is truth to your allegations, then (I believe) crimes are being committed in addition to ethical problems with such behavior.  I'm not familiar enough with the law to know which crimes specifically - rape perhaps? - but it has to be something.  I would urge you to bring whatever evidence you have that such conduct is occurring to the local relevant authorities - the police or district attorney's office in the hopes that they will investigate and do something about this.  Sometimes things don't get investigated until they are publically known, so communicating with the local newspaper to urge them to investigate (if they do that sort of thing) would potentially be a good idea as well.  

finding alternatives - - May 2nd 2009

I was a child growing up in an abusive environement, I witnessed a lot of abuse but before people say tell someone, mostly I found people either didn't know what to say or really didn't want to get involved, they may whisper about your situation or even try to interfere but rarely does anyone have the actual knowledge of what to do. I was hit by my ex after a bad fight and two girls came to help me, but when I wasn't reciprocating to them during my trauma they themselves became abusive with made the problem worse, overall if your mental health has been affected which mine certainly was, there are not many people as such you can turn to, but what I did find helpful was other tools such as Art and Poetry to help myself with and to relieve all the feelings of guilt and misery you can feel at a) not being able to stop the abuse and feeling responsible for it and I realised why I felt I had to enable the situation which can be a weight of the world on a childs shoulders, it can help as can writting or engaging in non violent activities that help you to shape who you become through it. life is hard but finding alternatives here and there can help a great deal, the most important thing is to try to find answers to your lonliness and try to keep your mind focused on functional things, the worst part of isolation is you can lose what is important overall and it is important to try to keep a healthy mentallity. When I listen to the way a lot of young people talk today or their sadistic moods I can tell they are people whose mentalities are very much unhealthy and they have lost a sense of functional opposed to becoming dysfunctional recreating and rebuilding that mind set may be vital.

The only thing you can do - Cassndra Jo Green - Nov 18th 2008

try praying=) I do it all the time and sometimes I do not receive the answers right away, but I know this because God has a plan. He is constintly in control of our situations. He may not step into a situation and prevent them, such as abuse but that is because "if God was to intervean in everyy harmful choice humans make, then that would go against our given-right to freewill. the freedom to make choices for ourselves" We would be robots. VERY unfortunatly people WILL make VERY BADDD choices. But anyways, even if you are not a religious person and/or do not believe in prayer, it would hurt to try it out, right?

dad abuses but does not hit little sister - Eric - Jan 11th 2008

My dad likes to force dependancy in his children and likes to side with my (literally) insane mother.  He forcefully takes control of everything we do, screws it up out of neglect, never taught us anything growing up, frequently belittles and yells at us (especially if we ever tried to accomplish anything), fed us small meals and mocked us if we ate between them, etc.  He likes to force dependancy.  My older sister essentially got away around age 14.  She was always at her friends', barely ever home.  I had some turmoil at home, but major problems didn't come until college when my dad took over my finances and royally screwed them up.

My little sister got the worst of it.  He constantly berates her.  If my mom destroys her things (from OCD, at random, etc.) he sides with my mom.  My mom then fabricates complaints so she can feel like my little sister isn't the only one complaining.  My dad then sides with my mom, and demands my sister give her whatever she wants.  He just kicked down her deadbolted door (10 kicks) and pulled her off her bed to get a bedsheet back.  She was anorexic for a while.  She's now 4 years into a 2 year community college.  My older sister graduated from Chapman and is marketing VP at a Civil Engineering company.  I'm finishing up at Berkeley, 6 years + 2 years off to recoupe.  Delayed due to the surprise financial issues, hunger, etc.  I've talked with my sister and unlike a lot of people I meet, she seems rational and thoughtful enough.  I tell her to ignore my parents when they call her worthless, etc.  I cannot get a pay increase until I get a degree, still have student loans to pay, and cannot afford to move out yet.  My little sister is much more stuck.  My dad threatens to evict us every time my mom yells about a book or we tell her to stop destroying our things and she complains about that, etc.  Says we're causing "a war", etc.  I don't even yell.  My dad won't hit my little sister because he knows that then the police can come.

So what do I do?

Mental Abuse That May Lead To More... - Amber Wilber - Aug 25th 2007
I first met Dillon when I was 12. His parents were nice and they never fought...then years passed and i never saw Dillon. Well last year, we ran into each other and started to hangout, one thing led to another and we started dating...His parents were cool with it at first. They were really nice and let me and Dillon hang out whenever...after 2 months of all changed. They started yelling at Dillon. Dillon do this, Dillon do that. Keep in mind his dad has a heart problem and uses that as his excuse that he cant do anything...well it got to the point were Dillon would call me in the middle of the night, crying that he couldn't stand it there that they were driving him first i was calm about it and tryed to talk to him maturely...and was on his dads side witht he heart thing...then i found out that his dad just got done going to an amusement park and rode all the rollercoasters apparentally it doesnt hurt that bad...and now he was taking it back out on dillon and this time on his MR sister. When me and Dillon were at Camp JJ (for the MR children) his dad camp and started screaming at Dillon in front of all the kids...Dillon cryed for 3 nights straight and i felt so bad becasue i couldnt do anything about it..the week we got back was the worst..Dillon told me he wanted to put a 22 to his head and kill himself because he couldnt stand the abuse...but he cant becasue he doesnt was the leave his MR sister behind...He also doesnt want to be seperated from his family here..but he wont say anything to them because he's afraid and I quote "That if the cant do anything about it, that it'll just get worse. And one day he hopes his dad hits him so he can really leave for good"...I have no idea what to do...and its hurting me. I love Dillon but i have no more answers...what should i do...

Speak for the children who are to afraid too!! - adult child of abusive parent - Feb 10th 2007

When I was a child my uncles, aunts and neighbors periodically stepped in our home and removed us..........Only to let my abusive father brainwash my mother into taking him back and picking us up!!  So many times we thought we were SAVED, when only to be picked up a day or two later by our parents. My siblings and I would cry not wanting to go back to the neglect and abuse we lived in.  But no one would do the ultimate deed and give a "True" statement to the police. They did not want to get involved. It's just a "Domestic dispute"  They wouldnt say what our little souls were screaming "Dad is a monster, he beats mom, he beats us..he screams and throws things"   PLEASE! If you know abuse is happening, let the authorities know the truthful details, insist they speak with the children.   I would have been a different, healthier person today had I not lived with the monster called my father. 

friend to a abused wife - bryon - Nov 4th 2006
How can i help her? She has a 12 year old daughter. She came to me at work and she has feelings for me. She told me everything about whatwas going on. Now she says everything is better, even though its not. Her husband hits her from time to time and cuts her down. He"s very pocessive of her. She's trapped in isolation. She told me one time that he would shoot her if she left him. She fears for her and now me.NOw she's trying to push me away and for me to move on with my life. I am a single man. We'ved talked for 8 months now. What can I do?

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