On a practical level, as a friend you can:
- Agree a code word or action that your friend can use to signal that they are in danger and cannot access help themselves.
- Offer to keep copies of important documents and other items for them. If they have to leave in a hurry, they don’t have to waste time collecting important belongings.
- Together or on your own, find out information about local services and help.
- Offer any practical help you are able to give, such as the use of your telephone or address for information or messages, keeping spare sets of keys, overnight bags, and important documents for emergencies.
- Offer help to protect them. For example, you could offer to be around when the abuser is there, give them lifts home or take phone messages from the abuser, encourage them to talk to a counsellor, or talk to a counsellor yourself about what you could do to support him/her.
- Encourage and help your friend to develop a safety plan. Agree with their concerns for their safety as well as that of the children. Offer your assistance in developing a plan that may even include you. Help by looking ahead to a plan of action should the abuser become violent again. Suggest an escape bag somewhere which could include an extra set of car keys, ID documents, birth certificates, insurance cards, in case they are needed.
- Encourage the victim to break the isolation. One of the most effective tools for abusers is the victim’s isolation from family, friends, co-workers or any type of support system. Help find an agency offering counselling and support groups.
- Encourage them to take threats seriously. Express your concern for the victim's safety and never minimise threats made by the abuser. Remember, that an abused person is in the most danger when they decide to leave. Respect their judgment as to the right time to leave. The time must be right and safe.
- Evaluate how they cope. Faced with violence and abuse, many people develop ways of coping that are themselves destructive. The last thing they will need is another reason to be hard on themself, so encouragement will be required.
- Let them know that coercive or controlling behaviour in an intimate or family relationship is actually a crime. They may not be ready to call police but talk to them about their options and keep records of what they disclose to you. It may be that if/when they are able to deal with the problems, they will need your notes.
- Talk to them about the options offered by Clare's Law (Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme). This allows them (or you) to contact police to see if the police would have any concerns for them based on what they may know about any past behaviour.