Friends and family

If you think a friend or family member is experiencing domestic abuse, there are things you can do to help.

Friends and family often believe they should stay 'neutral' in a domestic abuse situation, but the abused person can see this as an indication that they are to blame for the abuse, while the abuser can see it as evidence that their actions are acceptable.

  • Don’t wait to be told about their situation; bring the subject up yourself when the abusive partner isn’t around.
  • Approach them about the abuse in a sensitive way, for example by saying, "I’m worried about you because…".
  • Let them know you are concerned about them and want to help.
  • Believe what they tell you.
  • Take the abuse seriously. Abuse can be damaging both physically and emotionally, and is very destructive to someone’s self-confidence.
  • The importance of helping break the silence and end the isolation should never be underestimated. Listen to what they say and let them show you how you can be supportive.
  • Try not to criticise their partner or the relationship; instead, focus on the abuse and their safety.
  • You need to support the abused person in whatever decision they are currently making about their relationship, while being clear that the abuse is wrong.

Supporting someone is a challenge. You don’t want to see them get hurt, but may have to watch them carry on with their partner when you think they should leave them, however it is important to remember three vital things.

  1. You are not the person who has to live with the consequences of any decision. 
  2. Leaving is an extremely difficult decision to make, involving both emotional and practical considerations. Most abused people are in the position of making this decision when the abuser is promising to change and begging them to stay.
  3. Often, leaving a violent partner only signifies the end of the relationship — not the end of the violence.

These messages will help, if you can get them across when talking about their situation:

  • Domestic abuse is totally unacceptable. Everyone has the right to live their life free of violence, abuse, intimidation and fear.
  • Domestic abuse is very common.
  • Domestic abuse is very dangerous.
  • Domestic abuse is about power and control. Abusive, violent and sexually abusive behaviour is wide-ranging.
  • Domestic abuse is intentional and instrumental behaviour. It is about scaring someone into doing something that they do not want to do, or scaring them out of doing something that they do want to do.
  • The abuser is 100 per cent responsible for their abuse. Alcohol, culture or unemployment are not excuses. Their abuse is their problem.
  • It is not your fault. No-one deserves to be abused, regardless of what he or she says or does.
  • You cannot change them. They are the only person who can stop their violence.
  • You don’t have to put up with it. Everyone has the right to safety and respect, to put themselves and their children first.