Is someone you know experiencing domestic violence or abuse?
Worrying about a loved one’s safety at home can leave us feeling helpless. It can be hard to know how to support someone in this difficult and dangerous situation, and you may be hesitant to get involved in their private life.
You may be thinking the problem will "work itself out", but domestic and family violence normally doesn't end until action is taken to stop it.
It can take a lot of time, planning, support, and courage for someone to escape an abusive relationship. But even if they have no intentions of leaving, simply being there for your friend or family member can make all the difference.
We hope this advice helps if you’re not sure how to help someone experiencing domestic violence.
If someone is in immediate danger, please call 000.
Know what signs to look for
These are some common behaviours that might indicate someone is experiencing domestic and family violence or abuse:
- They often cancel plans at the last minute
- They’re less social than they used to be
- They’re less active on social media than they used to be
- They’re less responsive to texts/calls than they used to be
- They’re noticeably less confident and happy
- They never have money to go out for coffee/a meal/drinks
- They seem distracted or preoccupied
- They avoid talking about their partner and/or relationship
- They often look tired or like they’ve just been crying
- Their partner is constantly checking in on them via text or calls when they’re apart
- They’ve started dressing and/or grooming themselves differently
- They seem nervous or act different around their partner, or seem anxious to please them
- Their behaviour and/or body language changes around their partner
- Their partner puts them down in front of you, even “as a joke”
- They have unexplained bruises, cuts, or injuries
- They wear long clothes in warm weather (potentially hiding bruises/cuts/injuries).
Let them know you’re there for them
If you suspect someone you know is living with abuse but they haven’t opened up to you about it, find an appropriate time to raise the topic. This should be done in a private setting where it’s just the two of you.
Approach them respectfully and let them know you’re worried about them. If you can, use examples of things that have made you worry. For example, you might say:
“I’ve noticed you’ve been spending more time at home lately, and you seem nervous around your partner. Is everything OK?”
Pay attention to how they respond, and don’t pressure them to discuss the situation if they’re not ready. Let them know you care about them and you’re there for them if they ever need to talk.
Don’t pressure them to leave
As difficult as it is to see someone in an abusive relationship, it’s not helpful to pressure them to leave. You can offer to help them (see below), but pressuring them to leave the relationship can make them feel judged and ashamed, and could make them avoid opening up to you in the future.
Abusive relationships can be complicated, especially if children are involved. There are many reasons why someone might stay in an abusive relationship, such as:
- They may depend on their partner financially
- They may be afraid of coping by themselves
- They may blame themselves for the abuse
- They may have emotional ties to the abuser and hope the abuse will end
- They may be worried about where they and their kids will live
- They may be receiving pressure from their family or community to stay in the relationship
- They may not know about the available support and resources that can help
- They may be afraid their abuser will become violent if they try to leave.
Remember that it’s not always safe for someone to leave their abuser. Show understanding and let them know you’re there for them whatever they choose to do, and don’t expect they will leave.
Offer to help
There are many ways you can provide support to someone living with abuse.
- Help them create a safety plan of steps they can take if their partner becomes abusive again
- Help them create an escape bag of essentials for if they need to leave in a hurry
- Offer a safe place for them, their children and their pets to stay
- Share helpful contacts and services, like our counselling service
- Check in regularly to see how they’re going
- Remind them that abuse is never OK and it’s not their fault.
You can also ask them what kind of support they need right now. They might simply need someone to talk to, or maybe they need assistance contacting the police about their situation. Let them know you’re there to help in whatever way they need.
Learn more about how to create a domestic violence safety plan and escape bag in this blog post.
If you or someone you know is living with or at risk of any type of domestic and family violence or abuse, help is available.
You can call us on 1300 364 277 for guidance finding the right support for you, or learn about our Domestic and Family Violence Prevention service here.
1800RESPECT: 1800 737 732
DVConnect Womensline: 1800 811 811
DVConnect Mensline: 1800 600 636
Sexual Assault Helpline: 1800 010 120
Kids Help Line: 1800 55 1800
Lifeline: 13 11 14
If you believe you or your children are in immediate danger, please call 000.