Most people who are affected by abusive and violent behaviour turn first to family and friends for support. What you say or do therefore can be vitally important. Your support and encouragement can assist them to feel stronger and more able to make decisions.
The most important thing you can do is to listen without judging, respect their decisions, and help them find ways to become stronger and feel safer.
Check how the person is feeling and where they are at in their thinking about what to do. Help them explore their choices such as calling DVCS, developing a safety plan and/or leaving the situation. Also carefully consider the consequences of each option.
Avoid saying negative things about the person who is using abusive and violent behaviour. Many people still feel love and commitment to the relationship, and may feel protective of the person using violence.
In thinking about the sort of help you may be able to give, it is important to know that your support may be required over a long period of time. It is important to “stick with” the person but at the same time, be clear about your limits.
Think carefully before “having a word” with the person using violence. Think about the possible angry reaction directed at either you or the person subjected to abusive and violent behaviours that may follow from your good intention. Work out a safety plan before making an approach. Keep clear in your mind and your conversations that abusive and violent behaviour is unacceptable and there is no excuse for it.
DVCS also provides support for friends, family and neighbours of people subjected to violence and abuse and are available to support you 24 hours a day.
How do I know if it’s Domestic Violence?
Your friend or family member may:
- seem afraid of their partner or is always anxious to please their partner
- stop seeing friends and family
- have become anxious, depressed, withdrawn or have lost their confidence
- say their partner is jealous, possessive or has a bad temper
- have bruises, sprains or cuts on their body
- says their partner continually phones or texts when they are not together
- be reluctant to leave their children with her partner
- say their partner pressures or forces them to do sexual things
- say their partner controls their money; or
- be harassed or followed after they have left the relationship
What should I say?
Your response is very important and can make a real difference. If someone feels supported by the people around them, they are more likely to explore their options.
If you are approaching your friend or family member to talk about domestic violence, wait until they are alone and it is safe to speak. Say something like “I’ve noticed you seem really unhappy lately and I’m worried about you. Are you ok?” Don’t push them into talking if they are uncomfortable, but let them know that you’re there if they need to talk.
Some important things to remember:
- Let them know you believe them by telling them outright, or by saying things like “I’m so sorry” or “I’m glad that you told me”.
- Let them know that it is not their fault by telling them outright, or by saying things like “No one deserves to be treated like this” or “It’s a crime”.
- Let them know you are there for them by telling them something like “I’ll do what I can to help you”.
- Look after yourself. Supporting a friend or relative who is being abused can be frustrating, frightening and stressful. You may wish to speak to someone about it.
In May 2016 1800RESPECT launched their Support a Friend Campaign to help Australians recognise the signs of domestic, family and intimate partner violence and how best to support someone experiencing it. To view the full campaign please click on the link above to be redirected to the 1800RESPECT website.
1800RESPECT is the National Sexual Assault Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service. It is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services as part of the Australian Government’s commitment to reduce violence under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022.
1800RESPECT is a confidential online and telephone counselling, information and referral service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is for those experiencing the impacts of sexual assault, domestic and family violence. Victims of sexual assault, domestic and family violence, as well as their family and friends, can call 1800RESPECT or visit the website.
Please contact us here should you wish to discuss your options as a friend or family member further. You can contact us anonymously. We do not make any sound recordings of our conversations, but we do record that we spoke to you. This record can be made anonymously. If you are unsure, please speak to our crisis workers at the commencement of the call.