It can be very difficult to realise someone you care about is being abused, or to watch them experiencing family or domestic violence. It can also be hard to know how to support them in that time. You may feel helpless, because the problem seems so big and you don’t know what you can do to help. Speaking up about family and domestic violence is okay, and you can support your family member or friend in many small but significant ways.
Below are some things you can do to assist and provide support
If someone is in immediate danger, call 000 immediately.
What can you do?
Here are some steps you can take to support someone you know who is or may be experiencing family or domestic violence:
- Have a conversation
- Speak to them one on one in a private setting. Do not speak to them about the domestic violence when the person you suspect is using violence is around
- Explain why you’re worried about them
- If you might be worried about being wrong, it is better to risk a little embarrassment than ignoring the issue
- They might get defensive or upset that you’re asking them. This can happen but most people will appreciate the chance to talk. Reassure them you are there for them if they ever want to talk about it
- Listen to them
- Let the person talk as much as they want
- Acknowledge that they are in a difficult situation and that it takes strength for them to trust someone enough to talk to about their abuse
- Help them recognise the abuse, and the effect it has on them and their children. This overview of the different types of domestic and family abuse might be helpful
- Let them know that recognising that they’re in an abusive relationship is a hard step, and that the abuse is not their fault
- Take care not to criticise or blame
- Let them know what services may be available to help them
- Offer to help them
- Develop a safety plan and pack an escape bag and look after their escape bag for them
- Offer to be their emergency contact
- Agree on a code word they can use to alert you that they need your help. Remember in an emergency, if you fear for their safety, call the police on 000
- Offer them a place to stay if they decide to leave the person you suspect is using violence – make sure that they do not disclose your address to the person using violence
- Offer to look after their children if they need to attend appointments or seek support
- Offer to attend appointments with them. If they would like to report the violence to the police offer to help them to do so; if they have suffered physical harm offer to go to the hospital or GP with them; or, if they would like to seek financial or legal advice, offer to attend those appointments with them
- Offer the use of your address or telephone number to have information sent to and messages left
- Continue your support, and keep in touch with them regularly
- Continue listening to them and validate how they feel
- Don’t give up on them, even if they return to the abusive relationship
It is important to let them create their own boundaries around what they think is safe or not safe. Do not force or urge them to do anything they are not comfortable with.
Look after yourself while supporting someone experiencing family or domestic violence. Ensure that you do not put yourself in a situation which is dangerous to you, or to the person experiencing domestic or family violence.