Domestic Abuse / Domestic Violence can be actual or threatened physical, emotional, psychological or sexual abuse, which takes place within the context of any close relationship, usually partners or ex-partners.
Helping a friend or colleague
Regardless of their decision, it is important that the support offered increases their safety and doesn’t make it more unsafe.
Unless you are attempting to assist someone who has been very open about their experiences it may be difficult for you to acknowledge the problem directly. However, there are some basic steps that you can take to assist a friend, family member, colleague, neighbour or anyone you know who confides in you that they are experiencing domestic abuse.
Approach them in an understanding, non-blaming way. Explain to them that they are not alone and that there are many people in the same situation. Acknowledge that it takes strength to trust someone enough to talk to them about experiencing abuse. Give them time to talk; don’t push them to go into too much detail if they don’t want to. Acknowledge that they are in a scary, difficult situation. Tell them that no-one deserves to be threatened or beaten, despite what the abuser has told them. Nothing they can do or say can justify the abuser’s behaviour.
Support them as a friend. Be a good listener. Encourage them to express their hurt and anger. Allow them to make their own decisions, even if they are not ready to leave the relationship. This is their decision. Is there any physical harm? Offer to go with them to the hospital or doctors. Help them to report the assault to the police if they choose to do so. Be ready to provide information on the help available. Explore the available options. Go with them to visit a solicitor if necessary. Let them decide what is safe and what is not safe. If possible, offer the use of your address and/or telephone number for information and messages. Make sure you have a look at Safety Planning so you have the info to help.
The person may make decisions that you do not understand – but please don’t give up on them – that is what the perpetrator wants ! Isolating someone gives the perpetrator more control.
Look after yourself while you are supporting someone through such a difficult and emotional time. Ensure that you do not put yourself into a dangerous situation; for example, do not offer to talk to the abuser about your friend or their relationship.
Always be aware of what you do with the information including what is written down and where it is kept; also think about where you are talking and who can overhear the conversation. Never forget the worst case scenario; in this sort of environment – a breach of confidentiality could result in physical harm or the loss of someone’s life! A victim is at more risk at the time they leave the relationship. Already anxious and worried, the person may never have talked to anyone before. Breaches in confidentiality could prevent them from trusting anyone else enough to seek help again.