What Should I Do If A Family Member is Hurting Me?

Many communities have victim assistance programs that offer hotlines, counseling, and support groups.

Counselors can provide different kinds of help, depending on what you want and need. They can provide emotional support and practical advice, create a plan for safety, and link you to other resources. Other community programs you might need, depending on your situation, can include legal advice, telephone reassurance calls, safe housing, court protection, money managers, and/or respite programs. If you are being hurt by a family member:

  • Remember that safety is a priority. Call 911 for help as soon as you feel intimidated and before the situation at home becomes too dangerous or unmanageable. Often people do not think their situation constitutes an emergency until it is too late to get to the phone.


  • Remind yourself over and over that you deserve to live in an environment free of fear and pain. This may be hard to believe, especially if a loved one has been putting you down. It is important to counteract these messages by telling yourself repeatedly that you have the right to live free from harm.


  • Talk to someone. Perhaps start by talking with a trusted friend or a family member not hurting you. Remember: If you choose to talk with a professional (like a physician, nurse, social worker, mental health worker, or the police), they may be required by state law to report your situation to Adult Protective Services. (Laws differ from state-to-state.) If you are uncomfortable with this possibility, before you tell a professional anything about your situation, ask, “If an older person wants to tell you something private about a conflict in the family, will you be able to keep the information confidential, or will you have to tell someone else?” If the answer is “I will have to tell someone else,” decide if you want to talk about your situation with that person. Sometimes mistreated older people find the best place to start getting help is with a hotline counselor because of the anonymity you will have.


  • Keep talking to people until you get the help you need. It is likely that the abuse will not only continue, but also will get worse over time if you do not involve others to help you. Sometimes the first person you speak to will not know what to do or say. Try someone else, even though this may not be easy to do.


  • Do not focus on labels. It may be hard for you to hear a member of your family labeled as an “abuser” or it may be upsetting to hear someone call you a “victim”. This is understandable. The most important thing, however, is to focus on getting help for your situation. Worrying about the label can distract you from this goal.


  • Accept help. Accept this help for yourself. However, you may want to also find help for your family member. You can start to collect names of resources that may be of help to your abusing relative. Seek service information from the people helping you, as well as, advice on how best to get this information to your relative.


Where to Get Help

Safety Plan Overview

When a Family Member Causes Harm

What Are Some Examples of Elder Abuse and Neglect?

Reactions to Elder Abuse and Neglect

How Do I Tell If I Am Being Abused or Neglected?


This resource provides brief, general information about this topic. It does not take the place of specific instructions you may receive from health care or service providers. Copyright NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital 2006. All rights reserved.