October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month which was started by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence as a month of unity to connect battered women’s advocates across the country.

Domestic violence affects millions, both women and men, of every race, religion, culture and status. We must realize that domestic violence is more than black eyes it’s yelling, humiliation, stalking, manipulation, threats, and isolation.

Since the Violence Against Women Act passed in 1994, we have come a long way but we still have ways to go. Between 1993 and 2010, the overall rate of domestic violence dropped nearly two-thirds and state laws have reformed to address issues such as dating abuse in the workplace, stalking, employment discrimination and more.

Nearly three out of four Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. Now is time to take a stand. Support survivors and speak out against domestic violence.

Here are some tips for you to help a friend or family member who is a victim of domestic violence:

Make time for the domestic violence victim. If you decide to reach out to an abuse victim, do so during a time of calm. Make sure to set aside plenty of time in case the victim decides to open up.

Starting the conversation. You can bring up the subject of domestic violence by saying that you have noticed some changes that concern you. Let the person know that you will keep any information disclosed quiet. Do not try to force the person to open up, let the conversation unfold at a comfortable pace. Take it slow and easy. Just let the person know that you are available and offering a sympathetic ear.

Listen without judgment. If the person does decide to talk, listen to the story without being judgmental, offering advice, or suggesting solutions. You can ask clarifying questions, but mainly just let the person vent their feeling and fears.

Believe the victim. Believe the victim’s story and say so. For a victim, finally having someone who knows the truth about their struggles can bring a sense of hope and relief.

Validate the victim’s feelings. It’s not unusual for victim’s to express conflicting feelings about their partner and their situation. If you want to help, it is important that you validate their feelings by letting them know that having these conflicting thoughts is normal. But it is also important that you confirm that violence is not okay, and it isn’t normal to live in fear of being physically attacked.

Offer specific help. Help the victim find support and resources. Look up telephone numbers for shelters, social services, attorneys, counselors, or support groups. If available offer brochures or pamphlets about domestic violence.

Help form a safety plan. Help the victim create a safety plan that can be put into action if violence occurs again or if they decide to leave the situation.

It’s time to take a stand, be sure to support all domestic violence victims not just in the month of October but all year long.